David Low's Legacy and Sigmund Freud
By Anil Gokhale
07 August, 2013
A Jewish refugee from Vienna, a very old man personally unknown to you, cannot resist the impulse to tell you how much he admires your glorious art and your inexorable, unfailing criticism.-SIGMUND FREUD. (Letter to Sir David Low)
“Art does not reside in the materials nor the subject-matter. It resides in the artist”. “I was an artist who drew politics, not a politician who drew pictures. Public affairs were the raw material for my drawing and I had no wish to 'get on' in politics. Although I sought famous people for professional reasons”, (Sir David Low- Autobiography)
My curiosity of in what way Sir David Low defines as relationship between ‘Artist and his Art' led me to write up this expository write up. I can begin by quoting highlights from Sir David Low's Autobiography. “I was seventeen and growing up. As things were then in New Zealand there was an economic inevitability about my gravitation towards political cartooning. Illustrating jokes would never keep me. Caricaturing personalities offered very limited prospects. But here was a regular job at which, with freelancing additions, I could make a living. Up till then I had been interested mainly in the drawing, and not in drawing my opinions. Now I had to take a closer interest in public affairs. I started as the obedient hireling, but after a time, when I got into the swing of it, naturally my own political inclinations began to creep into the cartoons , proving once again that matter and manner of artistic expression are one , and irony and sarcasm are difficult to harness”. David Low's cartoonish demonstrate his opinions, inclinations and responses to the rise of European Dictators and the rapid passage to Second World War and which proved to be defining moments in shaping the popular opinions and inspiring resistance to dictatorships in political and social life. He inherited the legacy of Thomas Nast, the founder of American political cartoonist, who fought for abolition of slavery, racial discrimination, white supremacy, Nationalism and anti- immigration violence. David Low formed the continuity with ‘Anti War', anti imperialist radical cartoonist Robert Minor but avoided Robert Minor's mistake of surrendering his Art to politics! He continued to be part of liberal, democratic tradition in usage of the power of ‘political cartoon'. He proactively developed insights into the future course of events which Hitler led the world to most destructive Global war. He targeted the dictators including Adolf Hitler and his counter parts in Italy , Russia and Spain through his innovative cartoon campaigns. He drove Hitler to extreme irritation and wilderness. As a brilliant ‘Political' cartoonist strategist he could educate the masses against the dangers of ‘Appeasements' policies and innovatively upheld the ‘liberal and popular democracy'. My interest in Sir David Low is confined to his opinions, his Artistic expression and the relevance they have today.
David Low's Aims- Innovative “Nuisance dedicated to Sanity'
It is not that Cartoonish as an Art flourished in one quarter. There is another quarter which enslaved this Art form – which formed a distinct repressive tradition- Fascist. This tradition has understood, not the creative and revolutionary aspects of this Art Form but, usage of this subversive Art as a tool of propaganda in promoting ‘prejudice' and fantasy and using the intensity expressed through Cartoon for whacking the opponents, the ‘Anti national enemies ‘! The peculiar ground, ‘prejudice' on which their Art Form is built can be illustrated by Joseph Goebbels' quote. “It was often easier to express NAZI ideas in a political cartoon than with the written word. A cartoon would express concepts in a quickly understood manner that was impossible to attain in an article”- From- ‘Goebbels and Der Angriff' (The paper founded by Joseph Goebbels in 1926)
Sir David Low harnessed his Art as a critique of the popular ‘prejudices' and those of the political leadership of the British establishment. His cartoon character, Colonel Blimp made the highest impact in shaping the ‘opinion'. Blimp represented a ‘fascistoid' stereotype character and everything Sir David Low disliked in British politics. David Low says, "Blimp was no enthusiast for democracy. He was impatient with the common people and their complaints. His remedy to social unrest was less education, so that people could not read about slumps. An extreme isolationist, disliking foreigners (which included Jews, Irish, Scots, Welsh, and people from the Colonies and Dominions); a man of violence, approving war”.
Sir David Low is described as the greatest cartoonist of all times. ‘Political cartoon gallery' says, “Low created many memorable characters, including the Two-headed Ass, the TUC carthorse, and Colonel Blimp. Describing himself as ‘a nuisance dedicated to sanity' Low was a hugely influential cartoonist and caricaturist, producing over 14,000 drawings during the course of his 50 year career”.
Researcher and Founder of the Political Cartoon Gallery from Bloomsbury Dr. Timothy Benson, states, “Sir David Low (1891-1963) was probably the most celebrated political cartoonist of the last century. He is best remembered today for the way he mercilessly ridiculed in a humorous vein the dictators, Hitler and Mussolini during the 1930s. Despite several attempts to censor him, Low fought an almost personal war against Hitler and the Nazis which was played out for all to see in the pages of the Evening Standard. Michael Foot, who was Acting Editor on the Evening Standard from 1938, felt that Low's attacks on Hitler met with considerable success. 'Low contributed more than any other single figure and as a result changed the atmosphere in the way people saw Hitler. Other cartoonists did not have such a long-standing record.”
Dr. Timothy who profusely admired David Low's Cartoon Campaigns and analyzes Sir David Low's propelling motives and desires. “Low's humanitarian instincts and Liberal upbringing gave him a strong determination to oppose Hitler and everything he stood for. It would be Low's depiction of Hitler, above all others, that most got under the Fuhrer's skin. Consequently, the Nazis even tried, in 1937, to put pressure on the British Government to restrain Low from satirizing Hitler in his cartoons. This only bolstered Low's reputation as an independent operator at the Evening Standard, especially when it was well-known that he worked for a proprietor such as Lord Beaverbrook, who was a consistent and staunch supporter of Chamberlain's ‘Appeasement policy'.
David Low was not the stooge or hireling of the ‘ruling class' and ignored “the warning and continued to deride the Nazi regime. “Evening Standards felt that Low's concentration on Hitler had become too frequent and may appear to readership of the Evening Standard as a vendetta against the German Dictator”. In November 1936, the editor, Percy Cudlipp, (with Beaverbrook's sanctions) refused to publish 'THE JAW IS THE JAW OF MUSSO, BUT” and subjected' cartoon campaigns against ‘dictators' to censorship of ‘responsibilities' under ‘The present international situation'. David Low did not buckle under the ‘censorship' and ‘repression'. In his brilliant Article Dr. Timothy Benson narrates the storey. “The Nazi hierarchy seemed to have been particularly incensed by Low's cartoon strip 'Hit and Muss', which had been appearing weekly in his full page 'Topical Budget' from October 1937' and exercised intense, pressure on German political establishment to compel Sir David Low to shelve his campaign. Before out break out of War with Germany , the appeasement of German Dictator was still the order of the day. Struggling to resist, wriggle out from this ‘undeclared' censorship, undeterred by the ban on his cartoons in Italy , Spain and Germany , he continued his cartoon campaign. He was an innovative solution finder and without compromise ultimately, he discovered the highly innovative idea of creating a composite dictator named ‘Muzzler', (controlling, repressing, preventing from expressing) by fusing well-known features of both dictators (Mussolini and Hitler) ‘without being identifiable as either'. It made its appearance on pages of Evening Standard on 1st January 1938 . As the Article points out the name was certainly intended “as a pun to show how the authorities had unsuccessfully attempted to muzzle the cartoonist”.
However curiosity will lead us to look beyond ‘Muzzler as an artistic expression and search for genesis of it as a form arising out of compression of several thought processes or a ‘composite figure', a structure as a form of expression employed to disclose and mask their identity at the same time in order to hoodwink the muzzling repressive mental agencies. I will explore this point explaining the affinity between Sir David Low and Sigmund Freud in next section.
Cartoons, Dream condensation & Art of Interpretation!
Sir David Low's interest in observing the objects on the move was prolific and that sprung from his interest in drawing ‘Comic Strips'. (1903)
Eger to make ‘representation of life' in the drawings David Low felt the need to study the objects on the move. “What I needed was a series of busts of Homer sitting in a row, each wearing a different expression, so that I could study the characteristic disturbance of features in the acts of laughing, crying, sneezing, etc. I needed a real life class with a moving model, so that I could closely observe just what happens when one walks, and just what one can and cannot do with arms and legs ; a class for drawing from memory at which I could crystallize my impressions; a class for the analysis of character”- David Low.
In these remarks we see David Low, not only as a ‘cinematographer' and character-logist and but also an Art Interpreter and a researcher. He intended to make alive emotional and physical movements of the objects in a cartoon which are then frozen into sculptures ! Here we are reminded of interpretation of aesthetical works by Sigmund Freud, Moses of Michelangelo in which he discovers all possible emotional, psychological and physical movements frozen into the sculpture. Though both of them approached the ‘Object' from opposite directions, both of them became the interpreters. Both researched into the gestural and ‘automatist' qualities the caricature, cartoon, sculpture and dream images which invoke and communicate to audience or viewers the ‘unconscious associations'. Hence of both of them aimed at uncovering the mechanisms of crystallized images and their dissemination by ‘large audience'.
Sir David Low had learnt long back techniques to anticipate responses to his cartooning by ‘intolerant' dictators and censoring agencies! Storey of his encounters with dictators and repression goes back to his struggle against similar attempted muzzling and repression by the then Australian Prime Minister Mr. Hughes, who formed the anti –Labor' “National Government in 1911. David Low's anti- war cartoons published in ‘Bulletin' targeted the ‘ dominating Personality' , DP, through a series of cartoons. David Low says, “The press had began to wilt under censorship pressure” from the PM Mr. Billy Hughes. PM's personal threats and instructions to muzzle the cartoon campaign have been vividly narrated by him. “My cartoons reflected this view week by week by featuring Billy carrying a penny balloon inscribed CD.P.5 for Dominating Personality ”. David Low's ‘Muzzler' has its origins in his cartoon DP . David Low makes an interesting comment on this incident. “I had a charmed life with Censors until one day Billy's vanity exploded”. Fortunately Editor of Bulletin supported David Low.
‘Muzzler' demonstrates that Sir David Low had become wiser and learnt something extraordinary from his experience on ‘DP'. There are reasons to believe that Sir David Low was a keen observer of his own dreams. Given the fact that David Low suffered from periodic insomnia and struggled a lot for a solution, in this context, his revelation becomes important. “The Lows were always night birds. Whatever time I got up, I was never properly awake”. This gives clues to origins of his great Cartoon Images. The Dream images became closest ally and assistant of this great creative Artist, who relied upon, ‘unconscious' springs of thoughts, images, which when released busted asunder the yoke of psychic repression during sleep with full force. Artist's other ally, was of course was the trained ego, critical faculties, which translated these stream of condensed images ‘otherwise inaccessible' to waking consciousness' into Works of Art!
Sigmund Freud notices how dream utilizes the relation of similarity, metaphor, or the `just-as.` Freud calls this the primary foundations of dream construction. It is assisted by the mechanism of condensation (see pp. 383ff) in two ways:  through identification with singular persons--i.e., in terms of names, physical characteristics, gestures, understanding; and [2 ] composition--of both things and persons--where two separate objects are condensed together. (432) In his Dream Book, Sigmund Freud calls it ‘composite figure. Because either the things or the persons are unified they become accessible to the dream contents without the censor interfering. Thus, it may be said that condensation satisfies the claims of the dream censor.
Freud then refers to composite structures. These structures are represented  one thing which accompanies the knowledge that specific attributes of the dream thought belong to another dream thought.  Or through the combination of features of the two dream thoughts to form a new image. Freud notes, that is the construction is too large, the dream is content to represent one part distinctly and the other vaguely.
Again, In 1916, in ‘Wit and its relation to Unconscious' Sigmund Freud discusses the intent and function of caricature in expressing ‘ Rebellion Against Authority Through Wit' . “ The prevention of abuse or insulting retorts through outer circumstances is so often the case that tendency-wit is used with special preference as a weapon of attack or criticism of superiors who claim to be an authority. Wit then serves as a resistance against such authority and as an escape from its pressure. In this factor, too, lies the charm of caricature, at which we laugh even if it is badly done simply because we consider its resistance to authority a great merit”.
‘Muzzler' is just one illustration. We find innumerable cartoons from David low stamped like condensed images . For illustration, 3 rd July 1934 cartoon with caption reading- “ They salute with both hands, now !” http://www.slideshare.net/DHUMPHREYS/night-of-the-long-knives ) (Cartoon Item No. 2085- The British cartoon Achieves). This David Low cartoon shows Hitler holding the smoking gun and Goering (shown as Thor, the God of War- derived from mythology) Cartoon Interpreters have exactly identified the significance of “glowering at - not the traditional Nazi salute - but terrified SA men with their hands up . Some SA men already lie dead on the ground. Goebbels is shown as Hitler's poodle”. Low portrays Hitler as a brazen murderer keeping his men in check by naked fear. More importantly such cartoons perused the historical truth and the psychical essence of the events powerfully and brilliantly. Kind of emotional, psychological impact the cartoon makes on the viewers in empathetically evoking the human pain, terror and pathos from the depths of their psyche is incomparable. The effects have become possible because of condensation of several images of historical events have been casted into a single humorous cartoon image.
David Low's cartoons after cartoons exhibit the same quality with consistency and has become the backbone of his greatness and uniqueness. Hence Sigmund Freud calls these qualities as ‘inexorable unfailing criticism'. Naturally Freud was elated with empathy, to witness proof of reflections of his own discovery and discoveries in David Low's Art of cartooning, understanding of mechanisms of ‘dream work'. Condensation and creation of composite images is hallmark of tricks played by ‘dream work'. I guess Sigmund Freud must have been delighted to see such outstanding works of Art. Sigmund Freud had discovered and exhaustively discussed the techniques adopted by dreams in representing multiplicity of ‘unconscious' and ‘pre conscious' thought processes through construction of collective and composite images . He identifies them as “the principal methods of dream-condensation”. Both these greats discovered them independently, though Freud was the first to put it into psychoanalytic theory. Sigmund Freud's Victorian aesthetical tastes were in congruence with those of Sir David Low.
There are innumerable cartoons from these creative Artists which can be identified as products of such condensations of several strands of thought processes. Cartoons of this type have been subjected to multiple brilliant interpretations. Cartoon remains the only Art Form capable of ‘speaking' the buried truth. It reveals the truth of Chinese Proverb, ‘A picture is worth of thousand words'. In tiniest and compact form evokes humor, comic and human pathos. Hence Sigmund Freud's appreciated this ‘glorious Art' which launches criticism by exaggerating the absurdities, creates ‘real' in the form of phantasm by combining and juxtaposing the irreconcilable (at times) opposites and reaches out to viewers innermost core of psychic being..
'That depends on the aim of the prejudice.' David Low.
During his official visit to Soviet Union in 1929, David Low had an interesting conversation with the Polish born talented, one time, Russian Revolutionary Karl Radek, (the son of Jewish parents, born in Luxemburg 1885. He capitulated to Stalin in 1927 but met with the same fate as the great Revolutionary Leon Trotsky, assassination at the hands of Stalinist in 1939). Karl Radek was one brilliant propagandist of the Bolsheviks from first Russian revolution of 1905. Karl Radek was then the Press chief and supreme boss of Soviet propaganda.
“We talked of propaganda, the techniques of persuasion, emphasis and diminution, the comparative effectiveness of statement and parable, soothing expressions and the exciting expression, shock or tickle in the use of words and images. It came to this: it all depends upon the receptivity of the audience. You have to stay within its range of pick-up; otherwise you are talking to yourself. 'Now, that's where pictures have an advantage, said he. ‘Not really,' I said, 'Much the same limitations. All right if you stick to trite simplicity and traditional symbolic forms. But if you want to extend and bring your picture-language up to date, it's an educational job of labeling and impressing new association's reiteration and repetition.' ‘I always look at the cartoons in a newspaper first, he said. 'They tell me how things are. Your medium is no good for plain statement, but it is ideal for creating prejudice.
'Sounds immoral,' said I, knowing better.
‘Oh, no,' he said. 'That depends on the aim of the prejudice.'. 'Supposing your aim is to weaken prejudice and provoke people to use their own brains?'. Someone spirited him away and our
Pleasant talk ended in the air.
The conversation speaks volumes about the cartoon and caricature as a form of Art and the potentials it carries to work as double edged sword in either provoking people to ‘think' or to create prejudice. Cartoonists create ‘stereotypes' characters to achieve their goals and define their targets, as vehicle of mass communication and for provoking viewers. .
Sir David Low created the character ‘Colonel Blimp', a character to project an imaginative, stereotype (Lord Blimp, Bishop Blimp, Dr. Blimp, Mr. Blimp etc.) to reflect and represent the virtues and prejudices of the viewers' in 1930's Europe. A thought provoking stereotype to educate the people and weaken the prejudice ! Soon Colonel Blimp became the ‘public property' talked about everywhere for years together!
On the other hand we have in India number of Cartoonists who have attempted to create their stereotype! Most of the cartoonists could not avoid temptation of drawing Muslim community, en lot, over years. Community has been stereotyped and symbolically represented through cartoons. It is given the ‘look' of a classical ‘butcher, killer of ‘cows and human beings all alike'. The man and his symbolic attire, wearing a ‘Lungi'. Other prominent features of the Muslim, like wearing the ‘skull cap', dirty, unshaven, starkly half naked, figure with protruding belly and ruthless facial expression. This is the devised Propped up, imagery of Muslim to target the Hindu psyche and has been played very well, in different situations and as response to minor and major events with some variations to promote ‘prejudice' and fearful‘ castration complex'
Such cartoons have become the plank for bashing the Muslim community and generate hatred. Sch underground campaign against Muslims Community and ‘Islam' in 1960's, 1990s and subsequently provided opportunity for emergence as rescuer and messiah of Hindutwa and target the ‘collaborators' of ‘anti nationals' as dirty, uncultured and hateful. Patriotism was ruse, superb outward expression while prejudices were on the boil at the bottom promoting violence.
Sir David Low stereotyped Colonel Blimp to represent sum total of popular prejudices to ‘weaken' them and provoke people to think, Stereotyping of Muslim was to strengthen the popular prejudices and stop people to ‘think'. It gives us insights into what Sir David Low meant by, when he says , 'That depends on the aim of the prejudice.'
Archaic Symbolic Violence and stereotyping in Cartoonish.
Cartoon as Art form comprehends and integrates several art forms such as Drawings and paintings on one hand and literature on the other hand because of its ability to express the ‘un spoken- pictorial- visual and the written word' in symbolic, distorted and condensed form . Like dreams, it uses distortion displacement, condensation, dramatization, and secondary elaboration as mechanisms for representation of individuals, historical circumstaces and political events. However it has all the possibilities to pierce into the region called political imagery but differs from dreams due to its great potentials to be intelligible and real which is achieved by Artist through mental work of expression . It carries within it the virtues of interpretation to ‘unmask' and ‘degrade' and thus to challenge the ‘in tolerance' of self proclaimed authority. .
Characteristics of Fascist Political Cartoonist work differs from the work of ‘free thinker' because their cartoonish shows no or limited capacity to work on ‘condensation of thought processes' at the disposal of Artist' and instead takes easy recourse to obsessive symbolism. Hence it enslaves this Art form and subjugates it to expression of ‘prejudice' which s expressed symbolically. Two important aspects of ‘dream work' which it could utilize and are at its disposal are ‘distortion' (which was life of caricatures), ‘displacement' and symbolic representation in directing the energies stored in imagery on to the ‘Other'. These characteristics of unconscious expression achieves the delivery of personal anger, hatred, fear or terror and archaic violence on to the viewers effectively.
Fascist and Nazi cartooning thrives on defending its violence as ‘counter violence' against stereotyped community. Opponents; Jews and Marxists as evils and are often symbolically portrayed as venomous-poisonous ‘serpents', snakes or demons. The Pamphlet, ‘Killing the Jews in Nazi Propaganda' by Randall Bytwerk's ‘Nazi Symbolic Violence' reproduces cartoon captioned “Don't let it Go' (1935) poisonous snake in the stubborn and quelling powerful grip of German hand prompting the viewers not to let it go, not allow the serpent to escape and ensure that it strangled to death and killed to liberate German people from the misery imposed by Jews and Marxists. Indian Fascist cartoonists also have taken great pride in portraying Child Lord Krishna Killing the Demon, the deadly Poisonous Cobra serpent ‘Kalia' residing in river Yamuna to quell the poisonous opponents and Muslims.
Killing the ‘poisonous snake' provides justification of violence as ‘counter violence' in retaliation because it is poisonous! Affectivity of snake symbol lies in its ability to utilize the unconscious, archaic ‘dread of the snake' to awaken and foster hysteria and obsessive neurosis of the viewers and create hysteric groups. Any interpreter will understand that snake is disguised representation of ‘male organ' and invokes castration complex articulated as neurotic and hysterical symptoms.
Another means at the disposal of Fascist cartoonists is targeting the enemy community by it's symbolic
stereotyping as oppressor! 1924 Poster-Cartoon shows the Stereotyped bald headed fat Jew, with protruding tummy and wearing pompous suit riding on the shoulders of stout German. Jew is holding fast in left hand the shackles fastened in the mouth of the enslaved German and is being driven with the whip in the right hand. The poster is titled “Down with Financial Enslavement! Vote National Socialist! ” (1924). Cartoons of these types were repeated in Joseph Goebbels's Berlin weekly ‘Der Angriff'.
Political Cartoonist in India also towed the same stereotyped symbolism and have fanatically propagated the same message. We come across few typical cartoons showing Muslim community symbolized by shabby-look, wearing a skull cap and protruding belly and this man (Muslim), falling over a frail Hindu symbolizing "the burden of increasing Muslim population on Hindus in India ”.
Promoting medieval legends for the justification of ‘counter violence' or instigation for it is significant theme of these Indian or other cartoonists. Jews, Muslims and labor leaders shown as ‘stone aged' or frightening demon holding thorny weapon with bones of Hindus or opponents scattered around, suggesting as being guilty of mass murders and slaughters. For projecting widespread Jewish violence against Germans, Medieval legends of ritual murder promoting rumors were used to claim that Jews frequently murdered Christians to secure their blood for religious purposes. Such instigative cartoons promote hysteric hatred against ‘others'.
In contrast, we can see Sir David Low's outstanding popular cartoon ‘RENDEZOUS' (Evening Standard, 20 th Sept. 1939, Item LSE 2692, www.cartoons.ac.uk/record/LSE2692 ), also shows violence to provoke us to think. The cartoon is drawn on the background of joint invasion of Poland by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, greeting each other with pride, at the site of generic dead body of the human race (Or polish people) with pleasure and pride, ‘scum of the earth' and ‘bloody assassin of workers' both killers showing smug over the killing. The cartoon provokes us to empathize with the generic body. Theese cartoons define the conflict of two confronting trends within cartoonish world of Art.
Master Stroke for all Ages
History will recognize Sir David Low, not only as Humanitarian Humorist and cartoonist with extra ordinary wit but more importantly he was essentially an ‘anti war' activist! Sir David Low\Cornell Blimp' aimed at disrupting and des-respected popular beliefs since they were “all too often popular prejudices and were nearly always founded upon undue respect or reverence for someone or something . The very essence of satire was disrespect and irreverence”. He had closely observed the disasters during the world war I and Colonel Blimp “made me a sturdy democrat, considerate of the condition of the common people; for more education; for international co-operation; holding war, per se, as bad; for the League of Nations and united efforts to build a sane international system; for economic reorganization of world resources to that end; for piping down national arms”. He used all his powers as humorist against ‘war-mongers' and against the dictators.His Anti War poster, “Progress of Man 1935 AD' is stinging critique of Fascism, Nationalism- Patriotism' and depicts the ‘regression of man' to dark ages of cannibalism'. The conversation between the pig and the naked ‘cylindrical mouthed gas masked' man, resembling pig, bending forward to become four legged animal, visually depicting his ancestral animal origins. Pig says, “they kill me to eat, but you poor sap, they kill you for your own good”. The comments were intended to provoke the blind followers of Nazi ideology to think. “. ( http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/search/cartoon_item/progress of man1935 ad) or (View cartoon item: LSE2191). It was a message to the masses to wake up and understand the ‘mass psychology of fascism” and awaken the blinded poor mass following of the fascists dictators from their slumber to realize their own status as the ‘four legged masked animal-man'. It depicts their prejudices, regression and blindness. This painful but educative snub to ‘war mongers' has become the symbolic representation and a master stroke of all ages.
Origins, Aims, Objectives and historicity in Sir David Low's Art of Cartoonish
David Low versatility as cartoonish is embedded in ‘Aims and Objectives' of his Art of cartoonish. He integrated three founding aims and elements of this Art. As comics, he delivered his excellent humorous observations addressed to common man. As a social cartoonist, he grasped fundamental inexorable demands on life of common man, his problems, his hardships and inhuman conditions of his life and hence always aimed for humane ‘objectivity'. Thirdly, as a rebellion , against social-political orthodoxy, repression and authoritarianism he had ‘political' aim, to communicate partisan message to viewers. It was to ‘provoke' them to think, draw, attract them to his views and designed to influence them to respond to specific political events or circumstances in a manner the Cartoonist sees and interprets. Hence his aims were greater than those of journalists or writer and came close to those of a critical impartial historian, to objectively analyze and interpret. David Low's aim of cartooning was aimed at criticism and criticism. As an Artist he used humor and comics as the means and medium of Interpretation to activate viewers' responses.
David Low's experience made him into a complete ‘character-logistic' and sharply differentiated him-self from cartoonists whose aim could be downright malicious. An Artist by birth, ‘psychologist' by habit and historian made by penetrative restless enthusiasm and hard work, he made his mark when he says, “those with only the vulgar conception of caricature as aimless distortion of physical shortcomings could have had no inkling of my own view of it. How could I have explained my eagerness to find its art, my zest to try to capture and reduce to visual terms that most elusive of all qualities, individuality ?”. He adds up, “A good piece of caricature represents not only what the artist sees but what he knows about what he draws”.
Exploring the techniques of creating character, David Low says, “I would try a set of portraits. None of that clever superficial stuff ‘in a few brilliant lines.' None of that easy exaggeration of physical peculiarities merely, 1 would aim at carrying each subject a stage or two further towards fuller and more rounded representation. This time I would go to infinite trouble. No time limit deep observation, minute perception, Analysis and synthesis of character ”. These lines can come from a brilliant ‘psychologist' and complete Artist only. He says, “I was aware that my own efforts had been, to say the worst, catch-as-catch-can, to say the best, unorthodox, in that my search for knowledge had usually begun at the apex and worked back to the base, from effect to cause, from current affairs to historical origins, instead of the other way round ”.
He explored the circumstances and events in depths to provide full representation to the Characters. He used both the techniques of disguising and unmasking the characters, without compromising on criticism and ridiculing. David Low hints at ‘disguising' techniques used in Greek Comedy in which “the actors wearing masks are turned into caricatures of living politicians and other nuisances. That was to be my department”. In Australia Sir David Low's techniques were influenced and shaped by Will Dyson and Norman Lindsay. Dyson's cartoons used to represent War and Destruction by symbols of Devil, used to represent Finance Capital and Power by ‘Fat' symbol popular amongst working class and image of greed by large figure with paunch, top hat, spats and a cigar. This political philosophical influence never left David Low nor he was lured by any temptation to cross the boundaries of Art to peruse political ambitions.
India had produced ‘Political Cartoonists' who drew ‘KAMAJIS' and ‘BAWAJIS' to represent ‘common man' at the beginning of their careers, claimed to have been mentored by Sir David Low but in Sir David Low's words all of them ended up by becoming ‘politicians' who drew pictures'. Blinded by personal political ambitions they lost sight of Sir David Low's heritage, his humanitarian, psychological, philosophical and his Artistic aims and objectives. Opposed to the historical methodology' of Sir David Low , they saw all ‘Current affairs' through the prism of prejudices, projected ‘medieval symbols' to unveil their own autocratic ambitions and programs, lost ‘objectivity' and inquisitiveness to find the historical origins of events, played into the hands of blind historical forces of reaction and shook hands not with Sir David Low but his ‘Cornel Blimp'.
Sir David Low was a product of a tradition of critical Art which he inherited and never lost sight of bright revolutionary history which brought him the fame as critical Artist. In modern times, Leonardo da Vinci (1452 -1519) and his artistic explorations of "the ideal type of deformity' the grotesque truly discovered it as form of criticism or an alternate view . But its aims as Art really developed in the midst of industrial and socio-political revolution in Europe . French Revolution from 1789 to 1793, which brought down the rule of clergy and nobility, led to destruction of Bastille. These events propelled flourishing of this art form after the relaxation of press censorship. Ryan P. O'Donnell in his review of Michael Melot's “ Caricature and the Revolution”, observes that caricature has far reaching role of deconstructing “the political hierarchy polemically by means of an aesthetic medium for means of dissemination by a mass audience. As a destructive and reconstructive medium, the caricature serves as an ideal form as an instigator of social change within a period of revolution”. The Art was exported or spread to England and with great commitment Sir David Low truthfully carried forward innovations in this critical, glorious Art of Cartoonish in service of ‘common man'.
Karl Marx, admirer of this Art, comments on repetition of History of 1789-93 in 1848-51 French Revolutionary events as tragedy and farce. He treats it as parody, Nephew (Louis Bonaparte) imitating the role of his Uncle when he says, “And the sam e caricature occurs in the circumstances attending the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire !”
Sigmund Freud's works on Dreams & Jokes further explores the psychic origins of this Art- caricature. The analogy between the techniques of jokes and the dream work, both “share the cognitive mechanisms of condensations, displacement and indirect representation' (Ryan P. O'Donnell). He reiterates Freudian definition of “the joke” which “contributes highly to the caricature's function , due to its strongly gestural and automatist qualities, the caricature communicates more immediately to audiences through a regressive function that invokes unconscious associations . It is a medium whose primary goal is dissemination by a large audience. French revolution made the epochal impact on Europe and the world and the aesthetical medium”. It was quite natural that in Sir David Low's Cartoonish, Sigmund Freud discovered the same objectives and mechanisms of ‘Joke Work'. Here we discover the radical heritage of Sir David Low's cartoonish in depth psychology!
Legacy of Sir David Low- who aroused sense of Humor and not Sense of Horror
It is surprising that such vast populous country like India, despite producing innumerable cartoonists claiming to have been inspired by Sir David Low, could not produce even a single known Cartoonist (exception R. K. Laxman?) who could claim inheritance of the revolutionary or democratic critical tradition which Sir David Low inherited from his predecessors. India 's last Fifty years of History has been severely affected by legacy of cartoonists who have targeted Literature and culture, have whacked minority Community through cartoon campaigns. There are cartoonists who misrepresented and subverted Sir David Low's glorious critical Art. It is matter of great concern to day that when once again rightwing Fascist groups and parties are clamoring and surging ahead for seizure of political power in years to come. Are the political cartoonists in India attempting to understand Sir David Low message of protection of human values and his fight against socio-political ‘prejudice'? Sir David Low's Cornel Blimp fought against worst prejudices, intolerance, regional-linguistic chauvinism, corruption of values, authoritarianism and bigotry. He understood ‘prejudice' as the reified mechanism which facilitates easy ascendance of Fascism.
When Lord Moseley led ‘Black Shirts' instigated burning of anti-fascist Exhibition Sir David Low suggested to stage a counter demonstration. When he failed to make it happen he dared to take on Lord Rothermere, proprietor of Briton's biggest most popular NEWS Paper ‘Daily Mail' who was approver and very active supporter of ‘Black Shirts' the rapidly growing NAZI British counterpart. (View Cartoon number DL0790 on British Cartoon Archive). It is noteworthy that the cartoon criticism (reminded me of ‘Muzzler') on ‘Nanny' of ‘Daily Black Shirts' by making a composite phrase to integrate identities of ‘Daily Mail' and ‘Black Shirts' . The Cartoon embarrassed Beaverbrook (Sir David Low's Employer) since Rothermere had helped Beaverbrook finance his purchase of the ‘Evening Standard'. The satirical wit on ‘DAILY MAIL' was explicit and clear. “We need a man of Action such as they have in Germany and Italy ……”. The cartoon casted disguised Rothermere, Nanny, pushing the Baby cart with baby Black Shirts. NANNY imitates the NAZI Salute of Hitler and Mussolini who are shown to be raising their right hand with typical Salute. Both are hiding in their other hand the paper showing enormously rising figures of unemployment and trade deficit, wage down, prices up and tax burden in backyards of Germany and Italy . Sir David Low did not launch critique of ‘Hitler' abroad pretentiously but stood up courageously against ‘Hitler from within', from within Briton!
Recently established ‘ Indian Institute of cartoonists' aims to foster democracy, takes clues from the experiences of fascism in European History and claims inspirations from Sir David Low, Shankar Pillai and R.K. Laxman is a welcome sign. But having Vision and living up to it are matters of retention of the heritage of that ‘Glorious Art' and practicing it in India are things apart. With upcoming dangers and rising tide of prejudice, the need of the hour is to obtain unflinching support from ‘un prejudiced' viewers as the source of energy and resource in defense of freedom. Rather than making limited appeal only to “Philanthropists, Corporates, Bankers, Industrialists, Businessman and Media Magnates to open their hearts and purses to further this cause. Spread the word around ” it is essential to closely observe Beaverbrook – Sir David low's relationship. As an admirer of Sir David Low, I can only provide word of caution, while gathering of these resources presence of ‘Black Ships' are likely to be there to subvert the vision. Sir David Low was not any one's hireling and must be credited for devising most innovative, ‘out of Box' methods to ensure preservation of freedom of the Artist and remain loyal to popular cause for which this Art exists. .
What cartoon admirers now anxiously look forward is emergence of New Breed of ‘glorious cartoonish-artist', like Robert Minor, Rollin Kirby and Sir David Low who could launch inexorable unfailing criticism with an aim to “weaken prejudice and provoke people to use their own brains”! David Low's ‘progress of man' remains an unfailing valid criticism of events in India of 1935, 1948, 1968, 1993, 2002 and its validity will continue till the ‘animal-man' becomes ‘human'.
I recall the image from memory of a photographic News Paper image encapsulates a lonely, unclaimed, dead body lying in the pool of blood, with police van on the background on the emptied streets of Mumbai in the wake of 1992-93 post Babri Masjid demolition and ask whether any cartoonist in India has produced even a single carton which can match the ethos of this real unforgettable image? Answer is ‘No'. Indian cartoonists have not significantly resented the butcheries, like the one drawn by . Sir David , ‘Progress of Man 1935'. That is the reason why Christopher Andreae in ‘ The Christian Science Monitor / October 18, 1985 calls Sir David Low, `The thinking man's cartoonist'. “Sir David Low aroused Britain's sense of humor, not horror” He must be confronting Sir David Low with those who depicted others as ‘swines and snakes' in their prejudiced cartoon campaigns to evoke mass hysteria and neurosis, who saw their objective in blinding the viewers with prejudice and aroused sense of horror through ugly ‘counter violence' against the innocents, against working poor to settle one's own ancestral accounts. These are the conflicting legacies of ‘artists' who arouse ordinary man to surge forward and those who reversed the historical progress and pull the social order backward!
India has yet to produce innovative cartoonists who can launch this glorious unfailing criticisms through cartoon campaigns. If not cartoonists, India has produced excellent Satirists like Vijay Tendulkar who raised his head above cultural and political degradation in his outstanding plays like ‘Ghashiram Kotwal', which portrays the rise of Ghashiram, the hatchet man, a psychopath, rising amidst the decaying Peshwai of seventeenth century Pune to highlight the socio historical origins of terror outfits! Indian Cartoonists will have to ‘Call up' his courageous critical satire, the soul of cartoonish, for times to come.
Anil Pundlik Gokhale, is an Engineer by profession and has been a reader and student of Marxist and Freudian literature for last four decades. He has been a professional translator of medical and other literature from English to Marathi. As a non regular writer on political literature he has always been attempting to integrate Psychology and Marxism. He is the author of ‘Condensation And Condescension In Dreams And History: Essay - From Sigmund Freud To E P Thompson' by Author House London.
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