This is a collection of cartoons and caricatures that appeared in magazines, journals, newspapers and books from 1786 to 1950. The collection includes different artistic styles and is displayed in chronological order to highlight people and issues of interest at different times in Australian history. Items range from simple amusing examples to images filled with complex symbolism, intended to inform and stimulate. The work of some of Australia's best known cartoonists is featured and the collection includes many exquisitely designed and executed items.
- The cartoons and caricatures in this picture trail were created for a variety of purposes and audiences. Many provide satirical commentary on major political and social issues, while others were designed simply to amuse. Important events in Australian history and some well-known politicians, sportspeople, industry leaders, writers and artists are represented.
- Caricatures exaggerate and distort personality and physical features, and can be complimentary, critical or political. Don Bradman is depicted benignly in the trail, for example, while a sculpture of Robert Menzies and a cigarette lighter depicting Kaiser Wilhelm are less flattering three-dimensional caricatures. Caricatures usually show well-known people - Edmund Barton, Douglas Mawson and Henry Lawson are examples of Australians depicted in the trail.
- Some of the early cartoons in the trail are detailed illustrations filled with symbolic meaning. Contemporary readers needed to study the images and accompanying text closely and usually had to have some knowledge of the issues to fully understand the messages. This is evident in complex cartoons about suffrage and governance. Other issues in the trail include conscription, industrial relations, the military and foreign affairs.
- In contrast to the complex early cartoons, those from the Second World War are illustrative of a simpler type, designed to be quickly read and easily understood. Simple cartoons are common on postcards and collector cards and often refer to common experiences or feelings, such as the example from a series about a man with a toothache. They can also reflect common contemporary attitudes, such as the negative depiction of a woman doctor wearing 'masculine' attire from 1912.
- Many of the later cartoons in the trail are single drawings with a caption, or comic strips that parody current events or common experiences such as manners. A cartoon about US military in Australia in the Second World War comments on the US soldiers' higher incomes and desirability to Australian women. The popular Second World War 'Bluey and Curley' syndicated comic strip features Australian slang and the sardonic humour and irony that was particularly common in Australian cartoons of the time.
- The techniques used by the cartoonists and caricaturists in the picture trail range from a few pencil lines to etchings, drawings, wood carvings and sculptures. The capacity of the artists to communicate information, attitudes and ideas effectively helped ensure the popularity of several early publications, and the items remain entertaining today. The trail includes cartoons from newspapers, war magazines such as Salt, political journals and books.
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