Bring me Laughter and The Face of Satire: Cartoon Museum and BFI take on comedy

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 January 2014

Two London shows play for laughs: The Cartoon Museum has 150 years of illustrations, while the BFI Southbank presents portraits of well-known satirists

A photo of a cartoon showing a series of cartoon people on mounts above a hill
William Heath Robinson's Trapping the Polecat in the Catskill Mountains is part of Bring me Laughter at the Cartoon Museum© The Estate of Mrs JC Robinson
Born the son of a collier in the Cumbrian mining village of Great Clifton, George Walker trained as a metallurgist and chemist. But his father, as he recalls, summarised his son as a boy who “thinks about nowt but actin’ and paintin’.”

An image of a satirical cartoon showing the queen in a suit and glove waving and smiling
Jonathan Cusick, HM the Queen© Jonathan Cusick
Those words proved partly prophetic: along with his wife, Pat, the 96-year-old has spent his life collecting drawings by some of the sharpest artists of the past 150 years, from Leslie Illingworth’s views on World War II to sensitive line works by Charles Keene, an untrained craftsman in black and white employed by Punch during the 19th century.

Walker was initially inspired by another 19th century master, Phil Mays, after seeing an exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery, although some of the collector’s own works are also on show at the Cartoon Museum, informed by his casual studies during his spare time at the Carlisle College of Art.

In fact, his own paintings and drawings have helped fund his own purchases – after the war, the couple began visiting galleries, dealers and auction houses.

“There is some satisfaction in always having admired so-called ‘commercial’ art,” explains Walker.

“For so long it has been considered greatly inferior to ‘fine art’, and now it commands the respect that the best of it deserves.”

The Face of Satire, meanwhile, will be held at the BFI Southbank as part of the London Comedy Film Festival. Working with artists India Banks and Frode Gjerlow, photographer Rachel King has portrayed 14 satirists – Gerald Scarfe, Josie Long, Sara Pascoe and David Baddiel among them – in a spirit of self-portraiture based upon the views held by each sitter on their own art.

Theatrical sets underlay each portrait in an exhibition which is expected to develop in other locations during the rest of the year.

  • Bring me Laughter is at the Cartoon Museum until February 23 2014. The Face of Satire is at BFI Southbank from January 23-26.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

An image of a bygone colour cartoon showing a man and woman standing in a shop
Donald McGill, Sorry, Lady, I'aven't got a fillet steak this morning, but I've got a beautiful rump!© Interart
A photo of a male comedian standing in front of a black board with white chalk on it
David Baddiel is part of The Face of Satire© Rachel King
A black and white photo of a woman playing a giant board game in front of a giant paper sheet
Al Kennedy© Rachel King
A black and white photo of a man sitting on a toilet seat in a suit shouting
Martin Rowson© Rachel King
A black and white photo of a male comedian squinting under a giant magnifying glass
Mark Thomas© Rachel King
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