Political Illustrations of the Past

Illustrator’s pen once rivaled camera’s flash, reporter’s notebook

By Diane Toroian Keaggy



An illustration by Robert Weaver, who was among the top political illustrators of the mid-20th century. The Douglas B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library, which opens this week, is home to Weaver’s archives as well as other great illustrators from the period.

Thousands of photographers, videographers and writers will descend on Washington University in St. Louis Oct. 9 to cover the presidential debate. But in mid-20th-century America, another sort of journalist was part of the media mix: the illustrator. Artists like Robert Weaver, Bernie Fuchs and Norman Rockwell were hired by publications like Esquire, Look and Time to chronicle key moments in elections and capture the essence of the candidates.

“Photography existed, of course,” said Douglas B. Dowd, faculty director of the Douglas B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL) and professor of art and American culture studies in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art. “But illustrators could compress time and space into a single image and offer commentary and context.”

Great examples of political illustration are available for viewing through the Modern Graphic History Library, a special collection of Washington University Libraries that opens this week.

Dowd Modern Graphic History Library Dedication takes place September 27

What: The opening of the Douglas B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library, an all-day event at multiple locations around campus
When: Today, from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Where: West Campus, Brown Hall and Steinberg Auditorium
What else: Dedication to include a tour of the special collection, panel discussions and lectures. To learn more, go here.

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