What's It Worth? Political Cartoons: A True Art Form

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Today’s TV pundits are often accused of being rabble rousers, troublemakers and worse. Frequently chided for being mean or controversial just for ratings, both sides of the political spectrum fill hours and hours of airtime with a lot of what is called puff or punditry. Some listeners are enraged. Some actually enjoy the opinions heard around a microphone with a three-camera setup.

But the real news to me has always been in the newspaper. I am especially fond of political cartoons. What a terrific art form! The best of these artists can look at a nuanced and complicated news story and boil it down to a wry, succinct cartoon – often tinged with dark humor – that supports or skewers the way many Americans think or feel. It is opinion, and editorial, and often devastatingly on point.

A few years back, we sold an extensive collection of vintage political cartoons that had been left to the grandson of the original collectors. Like the cels discussed last week, these cartoons were a slice of ephemera that became a powerful art form– highly collectible and frequently controversial. Search online and you’ll find some of the more disturbing cartoons that were shared in major newspapers back in the day. Some of them were so pointed and controversial – like those of Thomas Nast – that they could never be shared in a 21st-century newspaper. Yes, even more hyperbolic than today’s TV pundits!

The items in that impressive collection sold for $300 to $2,000 each. If you have ephemera you would like to sell or auction, visit us in person, or online at HessFineArt.com.
Three former sothebyscom associates and two art historians on staff. Call or email us if you want to deal with Florida’s leading auctioneer. We have sold the contents of museums and collections for USF.

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