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The Art of Controversy

Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


A lavishly illustrated, witty, and original look at the awesome power of the political cartoon throughout history to enrage, provoke, and amuse.

As a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and the longtime editor of The Nation, Victor S. Navasky knows just how transformative—and incendiary—cartoons can be. Here Navasky guides readers through some of the greatest cartoons ever created, including those by George Grosz, David Levine, Herblock, Honoré Daumier, and Ralph Steadman.  He recounts how cartoonists and caricaturists have been censored, threatened, incarcerated, and even murdered for their art, and asks what makes this art form, too often dismissed as trivial, so uniquely poised to affect our minds and our hearts.

Drawing on his own encounters with would-be censors, interviews with cartoonists, and historical archives from cartoon museums across the globe, Navasky examines the political cartoon as both art and polemic over the centuries. We see afresh images most celebrated for their artistic merit (Picasso's Guernica, Goya's "Duendecitos"), images that provoked outrage (the 2008 Barry Blitt New Yorker cover, which depicted the Obamas as a Muslim and a Black Power militant fist-bumping in the Oval Office), and those that have dictated public discourse (Herblock’s defining portraits of McCarthyism, the Nazi periodical Der Stürmer’s anti-Semitic caricatures). Navasky ties together these and other superlative genre examples to reveal how political cartoons have been not only capturing the zeitgeist throughout history but shaping it as well—and how the most powerful cartoons retain the ability to shock, gall, and inspire long after their creation.

Here Victor S. Navasky brilliantly illuminates the true power of one of our most enduringly vital forms of artistic expression.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 18, 2013 – The longtime editor and publisher of The Nation offers a highly personalized inquiry into the history and nature of political cartoons, and how they serve as a powerful tool of social criticism. Navasky (Naming Names) begins with an anecdote about a 1984 staff revolt at The Nation over a David Levine caricature of Henry Kissinger that staff perceived as sexist, then introduces three explanatory models vis- -vis the apparent potency of such pictures: content theory, image theory, and neuroscience theory. Each is briefly sketched and fairly superficial, and the author combines all three theories in analyzing a variety of artists and past controversies, including the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Nazi publication Der St rmer, and the 2005 protests over a Danish paper s depictions of the prophet Muhammad. The bulk of the book is devoted to a gallery of cartoons by giants like Honor Daumier, Thomas Nast, and Ralph Steadman, followed by a timeline of flashpoints from 1831 to 2012. Sometimes perfunctory, sometimes rich in detail, these entries and the brilliant illustrations accompanying them help make the book a valuable reference on the subject. Readers searching out a serious analysis of the social, political, and psychological sources and implications of the cartoon or caricature, however, will find this lively but capricious study less then satisfying. But the book succeeds as an introduction to the subject by a consummate insider. 76 b/w illus, 4 pages of color illus.

Customer Reviews

Disjointed, over analyzed and disappointing.

This was an attempted analysis of caricatures but was a disappointment. It was too much pop psychology and not enough about any one artist or era to be interesting. It did have some good cartoons but not enough to be worth buying.

The Art of Controversy
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Apr 09, 2013
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 256 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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