Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Cartoon Museum Is Planned in D.C

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Cartoon Museum Is Planned in D.C

Article excerpt

THE NATION'S CAPITAL has many major museums, but none devoted exclusively to the cartooning field. That is expected to change in the near future.

Plans are being made for the National Gallery of Caricature and Cartoon Art, which could open as early as this year on a provisional basis. The museums nucleus will be editorial cartoonist Art Wood's spectacular private collection of more than 40,000 works.

This collection contains political cartoons, comic strips, caricatures, magazine illustrations, animation cells, and more dating from the 1700s to the present. The artists represented include Milt Canill, Al Capp, Walt Disney, Charles Dana Gibson, Herblock, George Herriman, Walt Kelly, Sir David Low, Thomas Nast, R.E Outcault, Norman Rockwell, Charles Schulz, and about 3,000 others.

"It's some of the best work of the best artists," said Wood, a 65-year-old Maryland resident who began collecting at the age of 12.

Even as a teen-ager, Wood was very meticulous about what he collected. In his 1987 book Great Cartoonists and Their Art, Wood recalled a 1940 visit to famed Washington Star editorial cartoonist C.K. Berryman, who told the 13-year-old Wood that he could choose one of his original drawings to keep.

"I am quite certain he was not prepared for what was about to take place" wrote Wood in the Pelican-published book. "There must have been a 20-year accumulation of drawings in the cabinets .... I went through each cartoon in the collection. It must have taken three hours ....

"I was determined not to miss anything -- and to be sure that the one I selected was the very best one of all .... Mr. Berryman had long since gone home when the task was completed."

Wood, who grew up in the D.C. area, received many other originals directly from hundreds of cartoonists he would come to know over the years. Wood also received permission from syndicates to select the best work from piles of originals that were about to be thrown out. This was back in the days when few people knew just how valuable cartoon art would become.

By the mid4960s, Wood was already thinking about using his burgeoning collection to help start a cartooning museum in Washington, D.C. He and cartooning legend Rube Goldberg worked together on such an effort, and amassed some fascinating correspondence.

Wood showed E&P one 1965 letter from former President Harry Truman to Goldberg which stated, "I could think of no more useful project than the establishment of a National Center for Cartoon Art. I have realized from early childhood the communicating power of the cartoon... ."

The push for a "National Center for Cartoon Art" was ultimately unsuccessful, but the current effort has enough money and people supporting it to make Wood confident that a gallery will become a reality.

A major step toward this goal was the recent incorporation of the nonprofit National Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon Art (NFCCA), with Wood as vice president of the board of directors.

The board secretary is Susan Conway, director and owner of the Susan Corn Conway Gallery and a museum conservator in Washington for more than 20 years; and treasurer is Dick Locher, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune/Tribune Media Services editorial cartoonist who also draws "Dick Tracy" for TMS. …

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