In 1988 a group of cartoonists, collectors and lovers of the art form came together as The Cartoon Art Trust with the aim of founding a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, promoting and preserving the best of British cartoon art. After a decade of exhibiting in smaller venues, in February 2006 the Cartoon Museum opened to the public at its current home in central London, very near the British Museum.
The museum has three main galleries displaying original artwork from British cartoons and comics, past and present. Temporary exhibitions since 2006 have featured Private Eye, William Heath Robinson, Steve Bell, Giles, Pont, H.M. Bateman, Viz Comic, Ronald Searle, The Beano, Ralph Steadman and many other luminaries. At the heart of the museum lies its growing collection of cartoons, caricatures and pages of comic-strip art. The foundations of modern British political and social cartooning can be found in works by Hogarth – whose social satires are regarded by many as the foundation of the British cartoon tradition, James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson. The permanent collection also includes works by a number of fine Victorian cartoonists including John Leech, George Cruikshank, George Du Maurier and John Tenniel. William Heath Robinson – whose name is synonymous with outlandish and hilarious contraptions – hangs with his contemporary, H.M. Bateman, two of the most successful cartoonists of the first half of the 20th century. Also featured in the permanent collection are Pont, Gerald Scarfe, Ronald Searle, Giles, Martin Rowson, Steve Bell and a host of favourites from newspapers and magazines.
Our upstairs gallery displays original artwork by some of the founding fathers of British comics, such as David Law (Dennis the Menace, Beryl the Peril), Leo Baxendale (Bash St. Kids, Minnie the Minx), and Frank Hampson (Dan Dare), alongside work by Posy Simmonds, Sarah MacIntyre, Nick Abadzis, and the final page of Alan Moore & David Lloyd’s seminal V for Vendetta. From the US, there are originals by Garry Trudeau and Charles Schulz.
The museum runs events and workshops for schools & colleges, families, children and adults. The classroom can be booked for children’s birthday workshops, and the whole museum can be hired to host special events for businesses and social groups. There is also a library of 5,000 books on comics and cartoons which is available for research purposes by appointment.
The Cartoon Museum Shop stocks more than 900 books on the history of cartoons and comic-strips, graphic novels and children’s books, and a wide range of cards, posters, prints and cartoon-related novelty gifts.
In this space we hope to share some of the most interesting bits of information regarding the history of cartoons and comic art. For more information you can visit our official website at www.cartoonmuseum.org.