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A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

For well over a century the Library of Congress has maintained a strong collecting interest in pictorial humor and satire. Spanning four centuries, its related collections range from 17th-century Dutch political prints to contemporary caricatures by David Levine, and include drawings for cartoons and comic strips, printed satires and caricatures, comic books, illustrated satirical journals, and comic ephemera.

The Uprising of the North. 1867 Erwin D. Swann. 1962

Among its extensive holdings of visual materials, the Library has custody of the largest collection of American political prints and drawings in existence; one of the finest assemblages of British satires in North America; more than 20,000 original cartoon drawings by several generations of America's best cartoonists and illustrators; and extensive runs of rare satirical and comic journals from Europe and the United States.

New York advertising executive Erwin Swann (1906-1973) established the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon in 1967. An avid collector, Swann assembled a large group of original drawings by more than 500 artists, spanning two centuries, which his estate bequeathed to the Library of Congress in the 1970s. Swann’ s original purpose was to build a collection of original drawings by significant creators of humorous and satiric art and to encourage the study of original cartoon and caricature drawings as works of art.

The Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon, is now preserved within in the Prints and Photographs Division. These drawings are frequently placed on exhibition at the Library of Congress and in museums and galleries throughout the world. The collection is particularly strong in American work, but there is substantial representation of British, French and German artists, as well.

The Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon, administered by the Library of Congress, recently announced the awarding of academic grants to five applicants for the 2008-2009 Swann Fellowship: Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire, Mazie Harris, Jared Richman, Christina Smylitopoulos and Veronica White.

Delamaire received an award to support her research on the influence of French academic painting traditions on the work of Thomas Nast, a predominant American political cartoonist in the second half of the 19th century. Harris received an award for her research on graphic artist Henry Louis Stephens. Richman’s award furthered his research into political caricature as part of the visual culture that shaped popular attitudes toward America during the Romantic Era. Smylitopoulos’ award supported her research on the figure of the nabob (a provincial governor in the Mogul empire in India and also a term applied to a person of great wealth or prominence). White’s award helped her research on the varied artistic treatments of married women during the golden age of British satire.

Further information on the Library’s cartoon-related holdings can be found in this article, which also offers guidance in using the collections for research.

A. The Uprising of the North. 1867. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: Cartoon shows "a night scene. Columbia stands on a balcony draped with the United States flag, with the American Eagle beside her, wings outspread. She brandishes her sword, and below her, mounted knights salute her with drawn swords. In the distance is a wide landscape of mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes with beacon fires everywhere. In the sky is a vision of the Capitol, with rays of light radiating from it like the aurora borealis. The painting reveals Nast's complete belief in the righteousness of the Northern cause. It also reveals the basic romanticism that governed his politics and art. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC6-78 (color film copy transparency); Call No.: SWANN - no. 1890 (SOS-Framed) [P&P]

B. Erwin D. Swann. 1962. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-01759 (digital file from original); Call No.: NYWTS - BIOG--Swann, Erwin D.--Advertising [item] [P&P]