Art Young's Political Cartoons
Political cartoons are drawings that attack, defend or comment on individuals or issues of the day. They are drawn from the point of view of the artist, often with significant input from an editor, and are intended to influence a contemporary readership. Good cartoons can communicate their messages with few or no words. Yet outside of their own time and place they are often unintelligible without extensive explanation.
Art Young was a political cartoonist for over half a century and a contemporary of both Thomas Nast (1840-1902) and Herblock (1909-2001). He considered his political cartoons his most significant work, writing in The Best of Art Young that his cartoons on politics and government “occupied most of [his] time since boyhood” and “may prove to have been the most worth while, if not my best work.” Young noted that the bulk of his political cartoons did not focus on the “trivial turns in current politics,” but were rather “generalizations on the one important issue of this era the world over: Plutocracy versus the principles of Socialism.” This exhibit primarily highlights Young’s cartoons which do comment on specific individuals and events, with examples of some of his other work provided for context. These works, examined roughly chronologically, serve as illuminating snapshots of how Young’s attitudes towards the political and social world around him developed over time. As he moved from Chicago to New York, from Republican to Socialist, from the presidency of Benjamin Harrison to that of Franklin Roosevelt, his art and beliefs changed. Following are a few examples of that change put in historic context.