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Artists’ Birthdays: September the 27th – Thomas Nast (1840)

September 27, 2012

Would you like to know it all? We would! That’s why the theme for our Know It All Section for 2012 is Artists’ Birthdays. We hope that these posts will help to increase our and your knowledge in Art History. Lets get acquainted with more painters, lets recognise their artwork and be inspired by the masterpieces!

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This time for Artists’ Birthdays we have some vintage drawings, illustrations, to be precise, that were more common than photographs at the time. How popular are illustrations these days? Are they for children’s eyes only? We are introducing you to the man who created the modern version of Santa Claus, who considered the Roman Catholic Church a threat to American values, whose political cartoons supported American Indians and Chinese Americans, yet who depicted all Irish as violent drunks.

Thomas Nast (1840 – 1902)

Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist who is considered to be the “Father of the American Cartoon”. Among his notable works were the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party. Contrary to popular belief, Nast did not create Uncle Sam (the male personification of the American people), Columbia, the female personification of American values, or the Democratic donkey, though he did popularize these symbols through his art.

Some facts:

– Thomas Nast’s passion for drawing was apparent from an early age, and he was enrolled for about a year of study with Alfred Fredericks and Theodore Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of Design.

– Nast attended school in New York City from the age of six to fifteen, when he was forced to drop out because of financial problems. The boy had problems adjusting to life in America and never took well to school. He spent his entire school career on the verge of flunking out and consequently was not an especially good speller.

– After school Thomas started working in 1856 as a draftsman for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. On March 19, 1859, his drawings appeared for the first time in Harper’s Weekly.

– One of his first serious works in caricature was the cartoon “Peace” (1862), directed against those in the North who opposed the prosecution of the American Civil War.

– Nast considered the Roman Catholic Church a threat to American values, and often portrayed the Irish Catholics and Catholic Church leaders in hostile terms. In 1871, one of his works, titled “The American River Ganges,” portrayed Catholic bishops as crocodiles waiting to attack American school children; the bishops wanted to have Catholic schools for Catholic children.

– Nast expressed his feelings about ethnic Irish in his depictions of the Irish as violent drunks.

– In general, his political cartoons supported American Indians and Chinese Americans. He advocated the abolition of slavery, opposed racial segregation, and deplored the violence of the Ku Klux Klan.

– His cartoons frequently had numerous sidebars and panels with intricate subplots to the main cartoon. A Sunday feature could provide hours of entertainment and highlight social causes.

– His signature “Tammany Tiger” has been emulated by many cartoonists over the years.

– He introduced into American cartoons the practice of modernizing scenes from Shakespeare for a political purpose.

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Information for this post found on Wikipedia.

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