diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Cartoon Museum

Location: 35 Little Russell Street WC1A 2HH [map]
Open: daily (10:30am - 5:30pm) (not Mondays) (from 12 on Sundays)
Admission: £5.50 (kids go free)
Brief summary: comic sketches & animated displays
Website: www.cartoonmuseum.org (facebook) (twitter)
Time to set aside: maybe an hour

It's five years old now, this repository of the visual arts down Bloomsbury way. The Cartoon Museum lives in the shadow of its much greater neighbour, the British Museum, and survives by attracting visitors who wander into the wrong sideroad one street back. Quite what foreign tourists make of the Cartoon Museum I'm not sure - this is a distinctly British attraction, so most of the displays would mean little to someone brought up abroad. But if you're a fan of sketches, caricatures, graphic art or general pictorial humour, then your five pounds fifty may be better spent.

The front of the museum looks like a small shopfront, which is precisely what the front of the front of the museum is. Wander inside to find a mini giftshop of books, cards and artful gifts (tastefully done, I thought, so I reckon I've already got one Christmas purchase idea sorted). Only if you pay up do you gain entrance to the rooms beyond - a rather more spacious interior of three rooms down and two rooms up. On the way you'll pass a handful of witty black and white rectangles, the better sort of newspaper cartoon, pinned up in frames for your brief delectation. More of the same coming up.

The main permanent gallery skips through a history of British cartoonery, from Hogarth to Scarfe and all points inbetween. Biting social satire like The Rake's Progress, that's where it all kicked off, with the realisation that many a political point is best made pictorially with humour. Especially important when your audience can't read, or when they'd not got time to read some lengthy polemic - Gillray and Cruikshank slipped the message home anyhow. Noblemen and politicians were often a figure of fun, facial features emphasised, hidden agendas revealed. Punch magazine made all of this more mainstream, long before dentists' waiting rooms were ever invented, and were responsible for appropriating the word "cartoon" in the 1840s. It wasn't all serious - there are Heath Robinsons here and a Thelwell, for example - although the final burst of almost-modern artwork does have a more Westminster tinge.

At the heart of the building is the temporary exhibition gallery, which at the moment features a retrospective of Doctor Who In Comics. That's a good excuse to take pages from old copies of TV Comic, and other fan fiction, and display them with annotations around the wall. You don't get much chance to deduce the story from a single sheet, merely to soak up the atmosphere of the pen and ink drawings and relive an entire sci-fi era in black and white. There's plenty to see here, the exhibition's been meticulously curated, including a specially commissioned illustration of all eleven Doctors lined up in an imaginary identity parade. Might leave you cold, or might be a fascinating Hartnell to Smith geek-out, you'll know which. If the latter, get here before the end of the month before they take the whole lot down.

Upstairs, comics! The display runs the gamut of ages from pre-Dandy to post-Viz, this time with the opportunity to enjoy full one-page stories. An entire Beryl the Peril, a complete Dan Dare, even the scary saccharine world that was (and thankfully no longer is) Bunty. Look past the words to admire the talents of the cartoonist, be that the anarchic panache of Leo Baxendale, or the skill with which an entire tale can be told in only four panels. Did Jane really take off quite so many clothes to keep the War effort burning, and how has Dennis The Menace's spiky hair updated over the last sixty years? Should you fancy a sit down there's a table covered with back issues of the Beano and the Dandy to flick through, but watch out because they're all fairly recent so don't expect a bout of armchair nostalgia.

Children are well catered for, with an artists' gallery on the upper floor encouraging them to create, sketch and draw some mini-masterpiece of their own. Downstairs is a tiny room devoted to animation, more specifically to Peppa Pig animation - a fine example of the genre. And kids get into the museum free, remember, so there's a half-term idea for you. Admission was also free at the weekend to any soul clutching a Bloomsbury Festival programme, for which I deeply apologise. The Cartoon Museum isn't funded by government so relies on entrance fees to stay afloat, and I contributed precisely nothing to their upkeep on my lookaround. The least I can do is nudge a few of you towards their compact two-dimensional showcase, hopefully with a smile.
by tube: Tottenham Court Road

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream