Celebrating conservation and care of collections during the pandemic, Tru Vue is proud to share a new series recognizing recipients of the Tru Vue Conservation and Exhibition Grant awarded by The Institute of Conservation (Icon).
The goals of this grant program include supporting the preservation of collections; promoting diversity, equity and inclusion; and enabling objects on display to be presented in a safe way and with an increased awareness of display glazing options. Learn more about the Tru Vue grant program.
British satirist, artist, cartoonist and illustrator, Ralph Steadman’s famously inky artworks combine hand-lettering, expressive images and emphatic spatters. While his work with American gonzo-journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson is well-documented, Steadman also enjoyed an enduring friendship with the renowned “Pen-Man of London,” Philip Poole. Poole sold and repaired pen nibs for cartoonists all over the world from his shop, frequented by Steadman.
In anticipation of The Cartoon Museum’s 2020 exhibition “Dear Mr Poole,” Steadman sent two images to the museum from his personal collection – “Times Literary Supplement” and “Think.” Philip’s son, John, provided a third, created as a memorial for what would have been his father’s 90th birthday and as a tribute by Steadman to their friendship.
“The three incredible, never-before-displayed, Steadman pieces are larger than our existing frames, and contain 3-D elements, such as pen nibs and a feather,” said Joseph Sullivan, director of The Cartoon Museum.
Sullivan regretfully added that the museum could not afford the new frames, especially with the strain caused by the shutdowns from COVID-19. “Despite some success in support funding, the museum has a very tight budget,” he explained. “Due to these factors and a short turnaround, we were unable to display them in time for the launch of the exhibition.”
Icon awarded a Tru Vue Conservation and Exhibition Grant to frame and exhibit these three items for the first time. Emma Stirling-Middleton, curator at The Cartoon Museum, said that the museum commissioned Creative Picture Framing to design the bespoke frames with Tru Vue Optium® Museum Acrylic.
Each frame was custom-sized with the largest one’s dimensions spanning 840mm high by 594mm wide by 5mm deep. The 3mm anti-reflective glazing protects the artwork without limiting the viewer’s experience.
“Ralph Steadman: Hidden Treasures” was among the first in-person exhibit at The Cartoon Museum following pandemic-related mandatory closures. Developed in collaboration with the Steadman Art Collection, the three framed works were presented August-October 2021. Displayed in a small, intimate space that maintained social distancing and cleaning protocols, one household/”bubble” at a time was admitted to behold each piece. According to Steadman, the only place anyone previously would have seen “Times Literary Supplement” and “Think” was in the bathroom of his home.
Steadman stands at his table to create, where he can put his whole body into the work and produce the recognizable, kinetic quality of his linework. He begins many of his pieces by spattering ink onto the page, incorporating the random splashes into the finished artwork. Typically, he uses dip-pen, marker and brush, plus an atomizer atop an ink bottle to serve as a low-tech airbrush.
Reportedly, Poole often said that Steadman, “treats them lovely nibs like bloody chisels.” Used nibs were included in the framed 90th birthday card dedicated to Poole. The frame also minimizes risk of damage to the artwork during its exhibition, as well as in moving, storing, shipping or touring it.
The Cartoon Museum’s “Hidden Treasures” exhibit proved to be a success. Stirling-Middleton summarized, “The project has enabled these unseen works to be shared with the general public. It also has created the opportunity for this high-profile exhibition, which will support income generation for the museum in 2021.”
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