The Art of Political Satire
Editorial cartoons are symbolic illustrations that make a witty or humorous comment on social issues, events, and public figures. Artists use them to observe, report, disturb, amuse, and attack. They can be wise, unruly, witty, and crude. And they can tell us a lot about ourselves and the way people felt throughout history – for good or for bad.
To do so, cartoonists use several strategies and techniques to illustrate their point of view.
Sir Wilfrid: "This little Taft benefit act of mine don't seem to be appreciated here"Newton McConnell, circa 1911, C 301-0-0-0-289, Archives of Ontario, I0006192.
One smile out of threeNewton McConnell, circa 1905-1914, C 301-0-0-0-285, Archives of Ontario, I0006192.
Uncle Sam: "If you get me Reciprocity with Canada, you'll be famous in American history."Newton McConnell, circa 1911, C 301-0-0-0-599, Archives of Ontario, I0006583.
Uncle Sam: "Darned if them fellows ain't tryin' to deliver the goods with the basket thrown in too!"Newton McConnell, circa 1911, C 301-0-0-0-503, Archives of Ontario, I0006474.
"A new try. Uncle Sam: "Darned if he don't climb up or down this Tariff wire which way I will"Newton McConnell circa 1911, C-301-0-0-0-488, Archives of Ontario, I0006459
Artists might exaggerate the physical characteristics, gestures, and behaviours of important public figures.
Shown here is Canada and the United States embodied as two people. This effect is a personification. “Uncle Sam” is trying to steal a kiss from “Miss Canada” under the mistletoe.
Listen to 16 years old Jessica's reaction to this cartoon:
Cartoonists will also use familiar allegories, symbols, and metaphors to show political events in an entertaining and accessible way.
Cartoon captions typically appear below the image. But they can also appear on objects or people in the cartoon. This helps to clarify what they stand for. Watch out for the different labels that appear in some of the cartoons.
In this cartoon, Bear labelled “Free Trade Bruin,” is about to devour two men (labeled “farmers” and “workmen”). The caption writes: “The workman: We’ll have to stand together, for if he gets you, he’ll get me next”
The decisions a cartoonist makes when characterizing a public figure or newsworthy event presents a view of the world shaped by their own experience, culture, politics, and gender.
While their presence in popular culture may appear benign, editorial cartoons can encourage readers to form opinions, feel various emotions, and make certain decisions.
About Newton McConnell
Newton McConnell, 1877-1940
Many of the cartoons you’ll see throughout this exhibit were drawn by editorial cartoonist Newton McConnell (1877-1940). He was a well known artist in his day, drawing political and public figures for conservative newspapers like the Toronto Daily News, the Saturday Night, the Morning Leader, and the Vancouver Sun.
His cartoons were capable of stating the policy of the paper in a single shout. As such, many of his cartoons mock Liberal political figures and decisions.
As you’re looking through the cartoons, see if you can spot Spot – a little white dog with black ears. This is McConnell’s dog, who becomes a signature or mascot in his cartoons.
Can you find all the Spots in the cartoons throughout the exhibit?
Can you find all the Spots here in Newton McConnell’s cartoons?