A Brief History of Britain’s Political Cartoonists

An article takes time to read, but a picture speaks to us instantly. In the 18th century, William Hogarth campaigned pictorially against idleness, cruelty and drink and Thomas Rowlandson invented comical strips. But it was after 1805, when James Gillray depicted a small, ravening Napoleon carving up the world with William Pitt, that the cartoon — a distillation of news, character and opinion — became a feature of English life.

From Gillray, Tenniel, Low, Giles to the modern Scarfe, Trog, Bell, Brookes, and Matt
Charles Harris, for Country Life, summarizes the British political cartoon.

Searle wrote: ‘It is not sufficient for a good cartoonist to be a competent artist with a sense of humour. He must enjoy a political prejudice that is narrow and strong… he must laugh public opinion into what he believes it should be.’


Post Script: In Praise of Matt

One small consolation for the present political turmoil in Britain is the brilliance of the Telegraph’s cartoonist, Matt, who produces a small cartoon every day, without fail.

Consider the cartoons he drew in the week before and after Liz Truss’s downfall as prime minister after her U-turns in policy.