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Exhibition Drawn to Purpose

Themes and Genres

Amid the post–Civil War boom in the publishing industry, illustration and cartoon art flourished, and by the early twentieth century, became defining features in many newspapers, magazines, and books. Selections in the exhibition are grouped by type: Golden Age illustration, early comics, new voices in comics, editorial illustration, magazine covers and cartoons, and political cartoons. This opening cluster contains examples of each, reflecting themes that recur across genres and periods of time, while encompassing a dazzling variety of styles and media. Illustrator Jessie Gillespie's upscale advertisement epitomizes the notion of woman as elegant, tasteful consumer. Decades later, Dale Messick's Brenda Starr actively pursues her career as a reporter in an adventure strip that includes direct interaction between the sexes during the 1950s. New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast humorously chronicles a contemporary everywoman's quest for stylish attire. In Barbara Brandon-Croft's strip, the conversation between two African American women veers from motherhood to history. Anita Kunz created Hands to accompany an article about AIDS. Signe Wilkinson plays excessive surveillance devices off easy access to guns in her darkly humorous political cartoon. Collectively, these drawings include images that chronicle women's changing roles, as well as demonstrate how female artists have expanded their subject matter to address issues that involve not only women, but all people.

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