thu 25/07/2024

Art Gallery: Rude Britannia - British Comic Art | reviews, news & interviews

Art Gallery: Rude Britannia - British Comic Art

Art Gallery: Rude Britannia - British Comic Art

A visual feast of comic art from the 18th century to the present

The rude and the crude: David Shrigley's 'I'm Dead', 2007

There’s a rich vein of comic and satirical humour that runs through British art. Hogarth set the trend in the mid-1700s and heralded a golden age of graphic satirists. These included the three masters of the form: Gillray, Rowlandson and Cruickshank.

There’s a direct line that links their work to the political cartoonists of our own day, and Tate Britain’s sweeping survey Rude Britannia: British Comic Art features both the historical and the contemporary: Gerald Scarfe, with his excoriating visions of Thatcher; Steve Bell, who most notably put John Major in a pair of Superman underpants; and Martin Rowson, whose visions of a physically disintegrating Blair come straight out of a zombie movie.

It’s not just cartoonists and graphic artists who tap into the humour vein, but those working in the fine art tradition. The YBAs often used crude comic-book humour in their work. Sarah Lucas’s sexual imagery, for example, gives a knowing twist to the bawdy humour of the saucy seaside postcard, in works such as Chicken Knickers.

All the works featured in this gallery appear in the exhibition. It’s rude, and most definitely crude.


    1. William Hogarth, 'O the Roast Beef of Old England', 1748
    2. Philip Dawe, 'A New Fashion'd Head Dress for Young Misses of Three Score and Ten', 1777
    3. James Gillray, 'The Giant Factotum Amusing Himself' 1797
    4. Artist Unknown, 'Chamber Pot with head of Napoleon', circa 1805
    5. Thomas Rowlandson, 'A French Dentist Shewing a Speciman of his Artificial Teeth and False Palates', 1811
    6. Carlo Pellegrini, 'Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield', 1869
    7. John Tenniel, 'The Walrus, the Carpenter and the Oysters', from 'Through the Looking Glass', 1872
    8. Attributed to Boris Yefimov, 'Maneater', 1941
    9. Spitting Image (Peter Fluck and Roger Law), 'Thatcha! Ten Years of the Dragon', 1989
    10. Sarah Lucas, 'Chicken Knickers', 1997
    11. KennardPhillipps, 'Photo Op', 2005


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