THE PASSING SHOW
A TRIBUTE TO THE ARTISTS
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|THE PASSING SHOW'S BOLSHEVIK|
|KODAK (MOSTLY FRED PEGRAM)|
Why bother with The Passing Show, a British humour magazine here represented in four volumes from the period 1920 - 1922?
1. It helps fill out our understanding of the month by month professional life of the graphic artist, Leo Cheney, D.L.Ghilchik, Gilbert Wilkinson and G.E.Studdy for example, supplementing our understanding of their work as previously represented in anthologies of visual humour. Sometimes the artist gets a cover, sometimes a one-off cartoon, and sometimes gets the chance to begin a series that might offer a degree of financial security if it catches on, e.g. Suburban Scenes, The Silent Show, Their Pet Ambitions etc
2. The subject matter of the drawings provides a fascinating account of the values and beliefs of the United Kingdom after the most horrific and damaging conflict which the nation had been asked to endure. In the feature The World's Cartoons, we even get corroboration from American, European and Australian and other publications, reflecting the social and economic strains of the period.
3. The visual craft and pictorial ingenuity are of a high order, despite a generally cautious design of the page, tentative typography and a dogged defence of the status quo. The paper stock is adequate, and the printing techniques make for clear limitations. There is an understandable fascination with stripes - trousers, frocks, awnings and and deckchairs, providing indicative strong lines that reinforce the usual robust compositions. A specific example here. If you are used to the glib and glossy surfaces of Studdy's Bonzo the Pup drawings as represented by Studdy's annuals, see here the capable drawings he regularly submitted to The Passing Show, from page decorations to extended all page sequences. Here are comic drawings by such artists as Purvis and Newbould, better known for their posters. All too often we forget that, with rare examples, all these men and a few women had to earn a livinG. Sometimes the cartoons are even funny. They are unfailingly well drawn - see Thomas Henry's 'The Man who saw the Joke' above. My final recommendation.
4. If Low defined Adolf Hitler for the reading masses, I propose that we recognise Leo Cheney's characterisation of Lloyd George, the very personification of the twinkle eyed showman and snake oil salesman, beset by vast global problems but always ready to escape with a card trick or novelty song to outwit his pursuer.
5. The covers have a sturdiness and attack rare for a British magazine (Cheney and Ghilchik) and their political content is uncharacteristically sharp. The regular appearence of Edward Carson as Legal Thug is impressive and scary. The level of xenophobia is always entertaining in its attacks on German post-Versailles behaviour and Bolshevik Frightfulness. Unlike PUNCH there is no corresponding idealisation of the British National Character, and the arid abstractions dedicated to the Imperial Ideal are mercifully absent. No Tenniel Lions face down Bears and Turkeys. How refreshing. A common feature is an emphasis on the Plain Man (see also Sidney Strube) untouched by ideology or indeed imagination, taking the turbulent forces of Society in hand.
6. The World's Cartoons are of course a delight and help establish the fundamentals of the Political cartoon, establishing the Universality of the Globe in Torment, the God of War, the Balance of Arguments, but every now and then a stunning metaphor appears for a Political dilemma - the Ulster Political Process likened to a hand tilting game manipulated by the player to get two balls (Republican and Unionist) into holes set in a toy maze
7. In a magazine of such high graphic distinction, it is not surprising that much of the advertising matter aspires also to the highest standards of black and white drawing. It is not entirely altruistic. The advertising content sits easily with the editorial drawing and can be mistaken for it on occasion, always a blessing for the advertiser.