Satirical Illustration

There is a rich history of satirical illustration and political cartooning in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, especially from the eighteenth century onwards.

Research point
Steve Bell, the contemporary political satirist who produces the If… cartoon strip and other editorial pieces for The Guardian, regularly makes reference to the political satire of earlier times by re-working it with a contemporary twist. By doing this he’s also making satirical references to the past – making a link between the contemporary moment and a similar (or different) historical one.
Look at the work of William Hogarth, James Gillray, George Cruikshank or other eighteenthcentury political satirists and pick out examples you think could be successfully re-worked for a contemporary audience. Strip away the layers of eighteenth-century meaning to establish the core symbolism and metaphors that make the satire work. Identify what would you replace with what to make this work for a contemporary setting.

William Hogarth

James Gillray: The Loss of the Faro Bank, Lady Buckinghamshire is told by her cowed husband that a theft of money has taken place; Charles James Fox (1749–1806), a prominent Whig politician of the time, is seated at the card table hoping not to be found out. Replace the protagonists of The Loss of the Faro Bank, or The Rook’s Pigeon’d, with those of recent financial scandals and the satire still works – it’s the people on the inside that have caused the problem, not those locked out. The enduring quality of this piece lies in the visual metaphors and symbolism Gillray has used: the locks on the door and the visual contrast between the opulence and gambling inside and the panic-stricken husband outside.

George Cruikshank

Steve Bell