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The Cartoon Museum is dedicated to preserving the best of British cartoons, caricatures, comics and animation, and to establishing a museum with a gallery, archives and innovative exhibitions to make the creativity of cartoon art past and present, accessible to all for the purposes of education, research and enjoyment.

Specific Aims of The Cartoon Museum [back to top]

To display, primarily through exhibitions and loans, the works of art in the collection; to provide access to and facilities for the study of all objects, especially those, such as prints, drawings and water colours which cannot be kept on permanent display.
To research into the collection and into the subject areas to which it relates, and to incorporate that research into an accessible core record of the collection, and to publish a catalogue.
To provide a secure and stable environment for the objects in the collection and to conserve each object in good condition.
To develop a lively programme of temporary exhibition and changing displays related as closely as possible to academic developments in the history of cartooning.
To develop an educational service suitable for all levels including especially children's cartooning classes and public lectures.
To develop attendance at the gallery through an increase in the number of visitors and to improve their enjoyment of their visit through the provision of suitable services.
To develop the financial base of the Cartoon Museum, especially by attracting sponsorship of activities, development of Friends membership income, and targeted fund-raising.
To add to the collection by donations or acquisitions where appropriate, so that it is representative of the cartoon heritage of Britain.
To employ a qualified curator to study, exhibit and publish the collection.
To publish a regular newsletter in which text of scholarly lectures given in the museum are reprinted to form a permanent record.
The Serious Art of Laughter [back to top]

In 1949 at the Royal Society of arts, H M Bateman discussed Humour in Art. He said:

"Is it not high time that some official recognition of the worth of comic drawing was made? A permanent collection of some of the best examples should be got together and housed under one roof, forming a sort of National Gallery of Humorous Art. It is a fine art and a big industry, but it has no central home or headquarters, as every other art and industry on the same scale has, where the best is preserved and made availabe to the student and the general public."

Fifty years on there is still no permanent museum of cartoon art.

The Cartoon Museum is a charity dedicated to establishing a permanent centre, gallery and public exhibition open all year round for the cartoon arts, cartoons, caricatures, comics and animation. Towards that goal the Trust has built up an important collection of cartoon art and is still seeking further donations. As well as organising and assisting with touring exhibitions, the Trust also arranges cartoon and animation classes for children, and runs fairs, the annual CAT cartoon awards, now in their eighth year, and a programme of lectures and events.

There are museums of cartoon art abroad. Other countries have recognised that, whether they be judged as records, conveying the spirit of the age, as works of art, or simpl as jokes, cartoons are important. the finest cartoons ARE works of art: in their original form they have an immediacy, and often much subtlety of observation and technique, which is invariably lost in reproduction. The Trust already holds over 700 fine drawings, which have been databased, given a conservation rating and digitally photographed by professional conservators, and Cat has recently raised funding for its first curator. CAT continues to strengthen its collection with archive material, sketches, photographs and a comprehensive library of over 2000 books, by, and about, cartoonists and caricaturists.

The museum will compliment the work of The Cartoon Study Centre at The University of Kent at Canterbury, which has a unique collection of original drawings of 20th Century British artists, and is widely used for research. CAT also has close ties with other cartoon organisations:The British Cartoonist's Association, The Political Cartoon Society, and The Cartoon Club of Great Britain.


In 1843 in the early years of Punch, the word 'cartoon' was introduced into the English Language in the modern sense of a humorous drawing. The usage arose from a competition to supply the new Houses of Parliament with frescoes illustrating scenes from English history. The large rough designs, or 'cartoons' ( in the original sense used in fresco painting) were exhibited. The editor of Punch Mark Lemon seized the opportunity to publish his own 'cartoons', the first of which was a biting satire by John leech which bore Lemon's legend 'The poor ask for bread , and the philanthropy of the state accords an exhibition.' The new meaning stuck, and Leech is remembered as the first cartoonist in the modern sense.

Caricatura and Caricature
In 1710, Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, ousted from Royal favour by a rival, wrote to the wit Bubb Doddington: 'Young man, you come from Italy. They tell me of a new invention there called caricatura drawing. Can you find me somebody that will make me a caricature of Lady Masham, describing her covered with many sores and ulcers, that I may send to the Queen to give her a slight idea of her favourite.' This quotation provides one of the first descriptions of the art form in England where it was to become so popular. It is however worth recording a 17th Century definition on the subject 'Is it not the caricaturist's task exactly the same as the artist's? Both see the lasting truth beneath the surface of mere outward appearance. Both try to help nature accomplish its plan. The one may strive to visualise the perfect form and to realise it in his work, the other to grasp the perfect deformity, and thus reveal the very essence of personality. A good caricature, like every work of art, is more true to life than reality itself.
By Lionel Lambourne, from 'The Art of Laughter' , Copyright The Cartoon Museum

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