London-based writer with incurably itchy feet always looking for the quirky and curious
Published April 9th 2010
Cartoons and history might not be two entities you readily put together, but the Cartoon Museum successfully shows the pair are a winning formula.
Opened in 2006, the museum has made it its mission to preserve 'the best of British cartoons, caricatures, comics and animation'.
Located in the vicinity of the more establishment British Museum, this place demonstrates that history isn't all about mummies, dinosaurs and broken pots. It even goes beyond the many traditional art galleries that place their focus on older paintings and sculptures.
Cartoons are an essential record of social history, detailing the key politics, art and humour of a particular era, since the 18th century. Think back to the scandal of the Danish cartoons in 2005 and you quickly realise how great a sway they still have. Here you will find classic satire sketches by the original cartoon master, Hogarth, to more modern sketches of political figures such as Thatcher and Chairman Mao, to originals from much loved comics such as The Dandy and The Beano.
There is also an extensive library of over 3,000 cartoon-related books here (the majority of which are available for reference) and regular workshops are held for those after a more in-depth look at the history of graphical art in the UK and beyond.
The current main exhibition at the Cartoon Museum features the work of 90-year-old graphic master, Robert Searle. His work has varied from the poignant (such as Prisoner Dying of Cholera, Thailand 1943) to the playful (such as St Trinians series, recently to appear in hit Hollywood films). It seems that variety is a key quality shared by Searle and the museum at large.
This is an ideal stop for kids and big kids alike. It provides a welcome respite from more heavy-going historical sites that London is perhaps more famous for and, like the best museums, you can choose what you take away from your visit. Rest assured, everyone leaves with is a smile.