Thursday 25 February 2016

Panel 29: Mr Punch at The @NationalGallery

Daily Constitutional editor Adam continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London

Panel 29: Mr. Punch At The National Gallery

I'm almost 30 panels in to my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London, and so far I've only glanced in the direction of Punch magazine.

Punch – Or The London Charivari was the leading satirical magazine in Britain from 1841 right up to the 1960s when the spikier Private Eye challenged its supremacy. Punch continued publication right up to 1992. A revamp lasted only from 1996 to 2002.

Punch has made cameo appearances in this blog – in my post on the great George Du Maurier HERE and later in the Christmas Special on Henry Cole HERE.

I will return to Punch – both in a dedicated post and as a reference point in future panels – later in the series.

But in the meantime it's a handsome portrait of Mr Punch himself at no less august an institution as The National Gallery.

Despite its prominence in the country's most prominent gallery – it is one of the first pieces on display upon entering the National – you may not have noticed it before. But it's almost certain that you have stomped all over it.

On the landings in the staircase from the main entrance - up the steps from Trafalgar Square and through the portico – there are some fabulous mosaics, the work of Boris Anrep laid in 1933 and 1952. Russian-born (1883 - 1969) his work can also be seen at The Bank of England and at Westminster Cathedral.

On the landing at the National Gallery we have four of his works –  The Labours of Life (1928), The Pleasures of Life (1929), Awakening of the Muses (1933) and Modern Virtues (1952).

These eccentric pieces feature Londoners famous and not-so famous in the roles of the allegorical figures – a Covent Garden porter, for example, represents Commerce, while Greta Garbo stars as Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy.

In Modern Virtues the cultural,  artistic and intellectual life of Britain is celebrated. Churchill is seen fighting off a swastika-shaped demon. And it is nearby that we find Mr. Punch.

Mr. Punch is there to represent humour…

… with Britannia represented by Lady Diana Cooper (1892 - 1996) - writer, actress, society beauty. Britannia is clutching a copy of Who's Who - a joke that keeps on giving, this: Britons then were as obsessed with toffs as they are enamoured with celebs today.

In the mosaic Britannia is seen placing a crown upon Mr. Punch's topper. The lovely suggestion here is that humour is king among the modern British virtues

Oh, I do hope so.

The National Gallery can be found in Trafalgar Square. It seems almost insulting to post a map, but here we go…

… and remember to look DOWN!

COMING SOON ON THE CARTOON & COMIC BOOK TOUR OF LONDON… Wonder Woman moves to The Big Smoke and TWO excellent shows at The Cartoon Museum & The House of Illustration.

This post first appeared on The Daily Constitutional

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