Masterpieces from the Museum of Cartoon Art exhibition programs

The Bruce Museum is hosting an array of special programs and activities to complement the Masterpieces from the Museum of Cartoon Art exhibition on view in the Museum’s main galleries through April 20, 2019.

Masterpieces from the Museum of Cartoon Art showcases more than 100 original works celebrating the history of this unique art form in America. Treasures from this rich and varied repository represent all of the cartoon genres, including comic strips, newspaper panels, comic books, editorial cartoons, magazine cartoons, caricature, illustration, and animation. The artwork is on loan from The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

On Monday, February 18, 10:00-11:00 am, Jenny Robb, Curator and Associate Professor of The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, will explore the fascinating art and stories of female cartoon creators in the twentieth century with her lecture, Breaking Into the Boys Club: A Whirlwind History of Women and Cartooning.

Extraordinary women cartoonists have contributed greatly to the field of cartoons and comics across all genres. The Masterpieces exhibition features the works of five women cartoonists, from pioneer Nell Brinkley to Roz Chast of The New Yorker. Robb will speak about the art and careers of such early figures as Brinkley, Grace Drayton, Helen Hokinson, and Barbara Shermund as well as those entering the profession in the wake of the women’s liberation movement, including Cathy Guisewite, Wendy Pini, and Lynn Johnston.  Galleries will open for one hour following the lecture, which is free for Museum members and for visitors with paid admission. The snow date is February 25.

On Thursday, March 7, 6:00-8:00 pm, the Bruce Museum hosts a panel discussion, The Golden Age of Cartooning in Connecticut. This special event will offer a revealing glimpse into a time when cartooning flourished in the leafy suburbs of Connecticut. Chance Browne (son of Dik Browne), Cullen Murphy (son of Jack Murphy), and Brian, Greg and Neal Walker (sons of Mort Walker) pay tribute to their fathers – and to an extraordinary community of cartoonists, creators of such classic strips as Beetle Bailey, Rip Kirby, Hagar the Horrible, Hi and Lois, Sam & Silo, Big Ben Bolt, Nancy, On Stage, Juliet Jones, and Prince Valiant. They will recollect notable experiences and observations from this golden era: telling stories and sharing rare artwork and behind-the-scenes photos.

A reception and open galleries take place 6:00-6:30 pm; the discussion (6:30-7:30 pm) will be followed by a Q&A session. Free for Museum members and students; $15 for nonmembers. Advance registration is required, as seating will be limited; visit brucemuseum.org and click on the Reservations button. The snow date is March 28.

On Wednesday, March 13, 10:30 am, the Bruce presents a film screening of Stripped. This 2014 documentary (85 minutes) features renowned cartoonists like Jim Davis (Garfield), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), and Jeff Keane (The Family Circus), discussing their beloved art form and its current predicament in the shift from print to digital media. The film offers intimate insight into the artists behind the comics, including the first-ever audio interview with Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), and the impact of the shuttering of newspapers nationwide on their practice and livelihood. The film will be followed by a Q&A session with a Bruce Museum staff member. Free for Museum members and for visitors with paid admission.

The Bruce Museum has also scheduled several related programs for families and children. For the Presidents Day school-holiday on February 18, day-long activities include a cartooning workshop, 1:00-3:00 pm, taught by local artist and animator Emily M. Curran. On March 24, 1:00-3:00 pm is Art Adventures: Comical Illustrations, a drop-in program designed for children ages 4 and up and their families. And each Sunday, 11:45 am-12:15 pm, Museum docents offer Family Gallery Tours geared to families with children ages 6-10.

Additionally,  the Bruce Museum Store is the source for a variety of cartoon books, postcards, and gift items. Books in stock include “Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe” by Cullen Murphy; “The Comics: The Complete Collection by Brian Walker”; and “#Sad! Doonesbury in the Time of Trump” by G.B. Trudeau, whose work is also featured in the exhibition.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a recreation of the Museum of Cartoon Art’s Hall of Fame. Thirty-two artists were elected to this prestigious group between 1975 and 1997, including Walt Disney, Milton Caniff, Chuck Jones, Rube Goldberg, Al Capp, and Herblock.  Each honoree is represented by a superlative example of their work and a handsome brass plaque.  

The first institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of cartoon art, the Museum of Cartoon Art opened in Greenwich in August 1974.  Founded by cartoonist and longtime Greenwich resident Mort Walker, it moved to Port Chester/Rye Brook, NY, in 1977, reopened in Boca Raton, FL, in 1996, and donated its collection to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in 2008.

Brian Walker, a former director of the Museum of Cartoon Art, who has been responsible for more than 70 cartoon exhibitions, is serving as guest curator. “I am very excited to display this collection in my hometown of Greenwich,” says Brian. “I’m sure many residents fondly remember the days when the museum was a local attraction. The exhibition is a tribute to my father’s dedicated efforts to establish an institution where the public could view cartoon art on a regular basis.”

The Bruce Museum is grateful for support of this exhibition from The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund, the Connecticut Office of the Arts, and a Committee of Honor co-chaired by Millicent S. Armstrong, York Baker, and Anne Hall Elser. The Honorary Chair is Roz Chast, staff cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine.

Aboce image: Prince Valiant by Hal Foster. January 21, 1951 © King Features Syndicate, Inc. 
International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.