The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power

The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power

by Victor S Navasky
     
 

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A lavishly illustrated, witty, and original look at the awesome power of the political cartoon throughout history to enrage, provoke, and amuse.

As a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and the longtime editor of The Nation, Victor S. Navasky knows just how transformative—and

Overview

A lavishly illustrated, witty, and original look at the awesome power of the political cartoon throughout history to enrage, provoke, and amuse.

As a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and the longtime editor of The Nation, Victor S. Navasky knows just how transformative—and incendiary—cartoons can be. Here Navasky guides readers through some of the greatest cartoons ever created, including those by George Grosz, David Levine, Herblock, Honoré Daumier, and Ralph Steadman.  He recounts how cartoonists and caricaturists have been censored, threatened, incarcerated, and even murdered for their art, and asks what makes this art form, too often dismissed as trivial, so uniquely poised to affect our minds and our hearts.

Drawing on his own encounters with would-be censors, interviews with cartoonists, and historical archives from cartoon museums across the globe, Navasky examines the political cartoon as both art and polemic over the centuries. We see afresh images most celebrated for their artistic merit (Picasso's Guernica, Goya's "Duendecitos"), images that provoked outrage (the 2008 Barry Blitt New Yorker cover, which depicted the Obamas as a Muslim and a Black Power militant fist-bumping in the Oval Office), and those that have dictated public discourse (Herblock’s defining portraits of McCarthyism, the Nazi periodical Der Stürmer’s anti-Semitic caricatures). Navasky ties together these and other superlative genre examples to reveal how political cartoons have been not only capturing the zeitgeist throughout history but shaping it as well—and how the most powerful cartoons retain the ability to shock, gall, and inspire long after their creation.


Here Victor S. Navasky brilliantly illuminates the true power of one of our most enduringly vital forms of artistic expression.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Dwight Garner
[Calvin] Trillin likes to call Mr. Navasky "wily and parsimonious," and in his book Mr. Navasky gets some of that wiliness onto the page. He's agreeable company, a crusty tour guide, a man who knew many of the great cartoonists of the 20th century and has stories to tell…Among the best reasons to come to The Art of Controversy is that as it rolls along, Mr. Navasky strews, like breadcrumbs, a minimemoir of his own busy life and times. We read about everything from his Jewish childhood in New York City…to stories about the blacklist era and his cantankerous office mates at The Nation. Mr. Navasky's volume is not a coffee-table book, though it does provide a nice selection of cartoons and caricatures.
The New York Times Book Review - Deborah Solomon
…thoughtful and deftly illustrated…
Publishers Weekly
The longtime editor and publisher of The Nation offers a highly personalized inquiry into the history and nature of political cartoons, and how they serve as a powerful tool of social criticism. Navasky (Naming Names) begins with an anecdote about a 1984 staff revolt at The Nation over a David Levine caricature of Henry Kissinger that staff perceived as sexist, then introduces three explanatory models vis-à-vis the apparent potency of such pictures: content theory, image theory, and neuroscience theory. Each is briefly sketched and fairly superficial, and the author combines all three theories in analyzing a variety of artists and past controversies, including the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Nazi publication Der Stürmer, and the 2005 protests over a Danish paper’s depictions of the prophet Muhammad. The bulk of the book is devoted to a “gallery” of cartoons by giants like Honoré Daumier, Thomas Nast, and Ralph Steadman, followed by a timeline of flashpoints from 1831 to 2012. Sometimes perfunctory, sometimes rich in detail, these entries—and the brilliant illustrations accompanying them—help make the book a valuable reference on the subject. Readers searching out a serious analysis of the social, political, and psychological sources and implications of the cartoon or caricature, however, will find this lively but capricious study less then satisfying. But the book succeeds as an introduction to the subject by a consummate insider. 76 b/w illus, 4 pages of color illus. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“Thoughtful and deftly illustrated…an engaging meditation on cartoon history.”
The New York Times Book Review

“The visuals in The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and their Enduring Power are irresistible and the passionate Victor S. Navasky is a wonderful storyteller.”
The Boston Globe

“[Mr. Navasky] is agreeable company…a man who knew many of the great cartoonists of the 20th century and has stories to tell.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Accessible, yet acutely academic…With The Art of Controversy, Navasky has made a substantial effort to bring understanding to the power of caricature.”
The New York Daily News

“Mr. Navasky’s wonderful book is a spirited homage to the art and craft of political caricature.”
The Wall Street Journal

“This heavily illustrated, entertainingly written look at political cartoons is both personal—Navasky’s experience with controversial drawing as well as writing is considerable—and thoroughly researched. It is also deeply insightful.”
Booklist

“A lavishly illustrated, witty, and learned look at the power of the political cartoon throughout history.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“Engaging and often illuminating.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Navasky argues eloquently and convincingly [that] censorship of caricature artists amounts to an assault on individual free speech. The Art of Controversy is an amazing historical document from a political journalist all too familiar with caricature’s intuitive and divisive power.”
—Shelf Awareness

"A novel approach to the history of political cartoons. From Picasso, Grosz, and Daumier through Herblock and Ralph Steadman, Navasky illuminates an underappreciated art form."
-Oliver Stone

"As Victor Navasky, a word man, investigates  the wordless art of the political cartoon — what, he asks, accounts for its implosive power? — we find ourselves in the hands of a writer of  indefatigable  curiosity  and are caught up in the tempestuous history of newsprint art. An expansive, illuminating work. I know of nothing comparable."
-E.L. Doctorow

"Victor Navasky's The Art of Controversy is an entertaining and instructive reminder of the important place of political cartoons in exposing lies, hypocrisies, stupidity, and corruption in the public arena. Be prepared to laugh and get angry all at once."
-Tom Brokaw

"Victor Navasky pulls it off - he showcases the significance and power of political cartoons without taking the 'funny' out of them or cloistering the amazing rage they evoke that is far beyond the power of mere words to explain."
-Ralph Nader

“For the political junkie, journalist, artist, cartoonist or student, The Art of Controversy is a wonder story of an amazing art form.”
-New York Journal of Books

“An invaluable account of two centuries of comic art, with a galvanizing emphasis on the specific conditions of its creation.”
Barnes & Noble

“Thought-provoking…a compelling meander through the complex world of satirical cartooning.”
Ashbury Park Press

“An entertaining tour through a wonderfully affecting mode of illustration.”
Drawing Magazine

Kirkus Reviews
The veteran journalist offers a survey of political caricature, international in scope, but a little sketchy in its short biographical summaries. As the former editor and publisher of the Nation, Navasky (Columbia University School of Journalism; A Matter of Opinion, 2005, etc.) at least twice faced open revolt from staffers at the liberal magazine for caricatures that he published, including a famous one by David Levine that shows Henry Kissinger raping (or at least sexually dominating) the world. Most of the outrage came not from the right but from the left, from feminists who decried the sexual stereotype of a man having his way with a submissive female, who protested in a group letter that "a progressive magazine has no business using rape jokes and sexist imagery (he screws, she is screwed) to make the point that Kissinger revels in international dominance. Kissinger is a man, but the globe is not a woman." The incident underscores many of the points made in the book: that there can be a big difference between the way a caricature is conceived and perceived, that images have a different and often greater power than words, and that "unfairness, by the way, is the point--there really is no such thing as a balanced or objective caricature….Caricatures by definition deal in distortion." Admitting that "my methodology was anything but scholarly," the author presents a variety of theories on how and why caricature derives its communicative power before proceeding through an "unguided tour" of more than four centuries of political caricature and a gallery of more than 30 caricaturists and publications, most represented by a couple pages of text and a couple pieces of work. Where even a master of the form such as Ralph Steadman dismisses caricature as "low art…nothing but a cheap joke," the imprisonment or even murder of some whose work has offended suggests how severe the consequences can be. Generally engaging and often illuminating, but the study might better have gone deeper rather than wide.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307962140
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/09/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
18 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Engaging and often illuminating.”
-Kirkus Reviews

"A novel approach to the history of political cartoons. From Picasso, Grosz, and Daumier through Herblock and Ralph Steadman, Navasky illuminates an underappreciated art form."
-Oliver Stone

"As Victor Navasky, a word man, investigates  the wordless art of the political cartoon — what, he asks, accounts for its implosive power? — we find ourselves in the hands of a writer of  indefatigable  curiosity  and are caught up in the tempestuous history of newsprint art. An expansive, illuminating work. I know of nothing comparable."
-E.L. Doctorow

"Victor Navasky's The Art of Controversy is an entertaining and instructive reminder of the important place of political cartoons in exposing lies, hypocrisies, stupidity, and corruption in the public arena. Be prepared to laugh and get angry all at once."
-Tom Brokaw

"Victor Navasky pulls it off - he showcases the significance and power of political cartoons without taking the 'funny' out of them or cloistering the amazing rage they evoke that is far beyond the power of mere words to explain."
-Ralph Nader

Meet the Author

Victor S. Navasky is the former editor and publisher of The Nation, and a former editor at The New York Times Magazine, who once founded his own quarterly of political satire, Monocle, “a radical sporadical.”  He is the author of, among other books, Naming Names, which won a 1982 National Book Award, and A Matter of Opinion, which won the George Polk Book Award. He teaches at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he is the director of the Delacorte Center for Magazine Journalism and chair of the Columbia Journalism Review. He lives in New York.

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