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A cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works. An artist who creates cartoons is called a cartoonist.[1]

The term originated in the Middle Ages and first described a preparatory drawing for a piece of art, such as a painting, fresco, tapestry, or stained glass window. In the 19th century, it came to refer to humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers, and in the early 20th century and onward it referred to comic strips and animated films.[2]


Print mediaEdit

File:SubstanceandShadow.jpg

In modern print media, a cartoon is a piece of art, usually humorous in intent. This usage dates from 1843 when Punch magazine magazine applied the term to satirical drawings in its pages,[3] particularly sketches by John Leech. The first of these parodied the preparatory cartoons for grand historical frescoes in the then-new Palace of Westminster. The original title for these drawings was Mr Punch's face is the letter Q and the new title "cartoon" was intended to be ironic, a reference to the self-aggrandizing posturing of Westminster politicians.

Modern single-panel gag cartoons, found in magazines, generally consist of a single drawing with a typeset caption positioned beneath or (much less often) a speech balloon. Newspaper syndicates have also distributed single-panel gag cartoons by Mel Calman, Bill Holman, Gary Larson, George Lichty, Fred Neher and others. Many consider New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno the father of the modern gag cartoon (as did Arno himself). The roster of magazine gag cartoonists includes Charles Addams, Charles Barsotti and Chon Day.

Editorial cartoons are found almost exclusively in news publications and news websites. Although they also employ humor, they are more serious in tone, commonly using irony or satire. The art usually acts as a visual metaphor to illustrate a point of view on current social and/or political topics. Editorial cartoons often include speech balloons and, sometimes, multiple panels. Editorial cartoonists of note include Herblock, David Low, Jeff MacNelly, Mike Peters and Gerald Scarfe.[2]

Comic strips, also known as "cartoon strips" in the United Kingdom, are found daily in newspapers worldwide, and are usually a short series of cartoon illustrations in sequence. In the United States they are not as commonly called "cartoons" themselves, but rather "comics" or "funnies". Nonetheless, the creators of comic strips—as well as comic books and graphic novels—are usually referred to as "cartoonists". Although humor is the most prevalent subject matter, adventure and drama are also represented in this medium. Noteworthy cartoonists of humor strips include Scott Adams, Steve Bell, Charles Schulz, E. C. Segar, Mort Walker and Bill Watterson.[2]

Political cartoonsEdit

File:Tammany Ring, Nast crop.jpg
Main article: Editorial cartoon

By the mid 19th century, major political newspapers in many countries featured cartoons commenting on the politics of the day. Thomas Nast in New York City brought realistic German drawing techniques to enliven American cartooning. his 160 cartoons relentlessly pursued the criminal characteristic of the Tweed machine in New York City, and help bring it down. Indeed, Tweed was arrested in Spain, when police identified him from Nast's cartoons.[4] Sir John Tenniel was the toast of London.[5]

Political cartoons can be humorous or satirical, sometimes with piercing effect. The target may complain, but he seldom can fight back. Lawsuits have been very rare. the first successful lawsuit against the cartoonist in over a century in Britain came in 1921 when J.H. Thomas, the leader of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), initiated libel proceedings against the magazine of the British Communist Party. Thomas claimed defamation in the form of cartoons and words depicting the events of "Black Friday"—when he allegedly betrayed the locked-out Miners' Federation. To Thomas, the framing of his image by the far left threatened to grievously degrade his character In the popular imagination. Soviet inspired Communism was a new element in European politics, and cartoonists unrestrained by tradition tested the boundaries of libel law. Thomas won his lawsuit, and restore his reputation.[6]

AnimationEdit

Animhorse

An animated cartoon horse, drawn by rotoscoping from Eadweard Muybridge's 19th-century photos.

Main article: Animated cartoon

Because of the stylistic similarities between comic strips and early animated movies, "cartoon" came to refer to animation, and the word "cartoon" is currently used to refer to both animated cartoons and gag cartoons. While "animation" designates any style of illustrated images seen in rapid succession to give the impression of movement, the word "cartoon" is most often used in reference to TV programs and short films for children featuring anthropomorphized animals, superheroes, the adventures of child protagonists and related genres.

At the end of the 1980s, the word "cartoon" was shortened, and the word "toon" came into usage with the live action/animated feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), followed two years later by the TV series Tiny Toon Adventures (1990).

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Becker, Stephen. Comic Art in America. Simon & Schuster, 1959.
  3. Punch.co.uk History of the Cartoon.
  4. (2008) Doomed by Cartoon: How Cartoonist Thomas Nast and the New York Times Brought Down Boss Tweed and His Ring of Thieves, Morgan James Publishing.
  5. (2005) Artist Of Wonderland: The Life, Political Cartoons, And Illustrations Of Tenniel, University of Virginia Press.
  6. Samuel S. Hyde, "'Please, Sir, he called me “Jimmy!' Political Cartooning before the Law: 'Black Friday,' J.H. Thomas, and the Communist Libel Trial of 1921," Contemporary British History (2011) 25#4 pp 521-550

Further readingEdit

  • Becker, Stephen D. and Rube Goldberg. Comic Art in America: A Social History of the Funnies, the Political Cartoons, Magazine Humor, Sporting Cartoons, and Animated Cartoons (1959)
  • Blackbeard, Bill, ed. The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics (1977, Smithsonian Inst. Press)
  • Robinson, Jerry, The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art (1974) G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • Horn, Maurice, The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976) Chelsea House, (1982)
  • Walasek, Helen. The Best of Punch Cartoons: 2,000 Humor Classics (2009), from England

External linksEdit

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