Eulogy For a Dying Art?

Is this the end of editorial cartooning?

For Chris Lamb of The Chicago Tribune it is not so much a question as an inevitability.
Though as Dave Whamond‘s cartoon shows it’s been said before and still the editoonists survive.

© Dave Whamond

What better time than during the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists‘ convention
to write an appreciation of the art form.

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists will have its (online) annual convention this weekend where cartoonists, or at least the few who are still working, will be reminded of what they already knew: Editorial cartooning is a dying profession.

The AAEC conventions used to be raucous and important affairs, including speeches by presidents and other influential politicians. Nowadays, they’re like reunions of World War II veterans; each year fewer return, and those who do wax nostalgically about the good old days when they protected America from those who wanted to do it harm.

Today, there are fewer than 40 full-time cartoonists, fewer than at any time since newspaper editors began hiring cartoonists in the late 19th century. Four months ago, the Pulitzer Prize failed to name a winner in the category of editorial cartooning for the first time in nearly a half century.

It’s too early to write an obituary for editorial cartooning. It is not too late to write an appreciation.

Nast’s cartoons, starkly drawn and with only a relatively few words, reduced Tweed to an image that no editorial or article could equal. Tweed, who understood this, summarized the simple potency of the editorial cartoon by demanding, “Let’s stop them damned cartoons. I don’t care what they say about me; most of my constituents can’t read, but damn it, they can see pictures!”

Years after The Washington Post’s Herbert Block drew a stubbly faced Richard Nixon climbing out of a sewer, Nixon, preparing to run for president, told advisers, “I have to erase the Herblock image.”

© The Washington Post/Herblock

Read Chris Lamb’s paean to editorial cartooning here.

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