The Drunk Cartoon: An exhibition of alcohol and social satire


The Cartoon Museum in London is putting on an exhibition of drawings portraying drunks and drinking.

In this clip from BBC’s Today programme, David Yelland (former editor of The Sun) and cartoonist Brian Sibley discuss satire and social problems.

WineOfTheWeek shall be visiting the exhibition this Thursday. Here’s the description from the Cartoon Museum’s website:

Ink and the bottle looks at our relationship with booze over the last two hundred and fifty years as seen through the eyes of cartoonists. Like the best affairs, cartoonists’ relationship with drink has been turbulent, immensely pleasurable but dangerously addictive. Since the time of Hogarth intoxicating liquor has been a distraction and a delight, a solace and a temptation for both the cartoonists and their audience.

The exhibition includes 90 cartoons including works by William Hogarth, George Cruikshank, James Gillray, John Leech, Phil May, Donald McGill, Heath Robinson, Carl Giles, Michael ffolkes as well as leading contemporary cartoonists such as Steve Bell, Dave Brown, Matt, Ronald Searle, Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman.

Cartoonists have always enjoyed a tipple and throughout history there have been many renowned for their drinking prowess. Isaac Cruikshank expired in 1811after winning a drinking competition. His son George carried on the family tradition of hard drinking but later in life foreswore the bottle producing his monumental paean to temperance, The Worship of Bacchus (1860-64). Phil May, the great Victorian black and white artist, was seldom without a glass and in more recent times Jak of the Evening Standard was famous for his long lunches and even longer evenings.

Cartoons and drink seem to go together like gin and tonic, especially at the festive season. Ink and the Bottle looks at what we drink, be it homebrew or Grand Cru, life down at the local and what happens when we’re ‘under the influence’. Nor does it neglect the dangers of drink, be it cheap gin in Hogarth’s Gin Lane, the eponymous lager drunk by 8 Ace in Viz or the challenges of 24-hour licensing.

Ronald Searle, still drawing at 90, calls his favourite pink champagne his ‘engine oil’ and asserts that its bubbles inspire his drawings. Confirmation, if any is needed that ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’.

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