tv American Artifacts Off the Record Bar Political Cartoons CSPAN April 2, 2021 9:30am-9:56am EDT
we started with a look at his relationship with george washington. why they shared a bond, the politics of the young nation drove a wedge between them. in this lecture, scott harris explains where things went wrong. watch tonight, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. american history tv on c-span3. every weekend documenting america's story. funding for american history tv comes from these companies who support c-span3 as a public service. each week american artifacts takes viewers to historic sites around the country. the historic hay-adams hotel is
just across lafayette square across from the white house. it's decorated with political cartoons and featured in a journal of the white house historical association. even the coasters are updated with current caricatures. we speak with hans bruland and matt wuerker about the display. >> after the family relinquished their rights to the site in 1926, the developer built this hotel along with the cardinal hotel. the hotel has been in existence since 1928. this bar has been in existence somewhere starting in the '60s or '70s.
with my arrival in 1999, this bar was already known as off the record, a place to be seen but not heard. and it was not in this color and format and layout, but it was pretty well the same bar in the basement of the hotel. and it's kind of like the speak easy place and it has become very popular over the years. the decorations of political cartoons that are displayed from various artists dating back to a collection of atwood who is deceased. we keep some of the original artworks still in house. from what i know is that the previous ownership in the '80s and '90s decided to bring in some artwork after having a few beers, i guess, over the bar and in the bar and that's how it really established. but we have built up on this more so now because we're using
local artists and pulitzer prize-winning artists in order to continue the tradition of rotating political art through the bar. >> my understanding is this goes back to about 2000. they redid the bar here at the hotel and they went with this classic washington cigar den. back then you could smoke in bars in washington. they redid it with the wingback chairs and the booths and dark burgundy walls. and somebody had the brainstorm that they wanted to do cartoons for art. and the original genesis and collection that was on the walls was from art wood who collected cartoons and ended up donating his 30,000 cartoon collection to the library of congress. and he made an arrangement with the hotel to loan them a bunch of classic caricatures from his collection. and since then, i got involved
in 2008, thanks to my buddy richard thompson, when they wanted to update the caricatures to stuff that was more current. it went back to the 60s, 70s, and 80s and then there was was a gap. and the newer clients didn't recognize people from the reagan and nixon administrations. they wanted people from the clinton and obama administrations. that's when richard thompson was brought in and richard was just an astounding caricaturist. he was the top caricaturist at the time. did a lot of stuff for u.s. world and news report and the new yorker. he came in with a portfolio of drawings and they got some of those and they wanted more and richard said check with matt who works at "politico."
i was able to fill in some of the most recent politicians. political cartoonists use words, word bubbles and when i'm wearing my political cartoonist hat, i'm a political commentator. just like somebody who is writing a column in the op-ed pages, except i have the advantages -- i draw my opinion and express it with a certain amount of humor and the columnists have to rely on their own words. the saw a picture is worth 1,000 words is quite true. somebody who writes a 100-word essay about tax policies or something, has to rely on somebody who is willing to invest in reading those 800 words. you glance at a cartoon -- humans have a visual acuity.
we pick up stuff really fast. we recognize a face, a setting, a metaphor, a pun and you can process a cartoon really quickly. so we have a certain advantage, i think. there's some people that think political cartooning is going away. it's sort of an archaic form of political expression, i think just the opposite. i feel political cartoons are the perfect vehicle for our short attention span, twitter, social media culture and i'm sticking to that. the power of positive thinking. caricaturists are a little bit different in that caricatures don't have the advantage of using word bubbles and captions. it's purely a visual thing and you're not expressing a complicated political opinion. you're trying to capture a character. a good caricaturist can load that up with other stuff and
insert a political opinion or maybe there's some detail or there's some rye commentary in the setting or the clothing of the caricature. i learned this just recently after working as a caricaturist for 40 years, the word caricature comes from the italian word caracary, which means to load, as in a boat or a cart or a gun. and so a caricature is -- you're it's not a portrait. you're not just trying to capture the physical attributes of something. you're loading that portrait with a certain edgy humor, hopefully, and a little commentary. if you do it right, yeah, you capture more than just the physical attributes of somebody. i was very lucky in that as a young man i grew up in los angeles and i -- when i was in high school and first interested in cartooning, i got to meet paul conrad who is one of the
giants of the field, three time pulitzer prize winner for "the l.a. times." he was most proud of the fact that he was the only koor toonist that made nixon's enemies list. so conrad opened the door to me that this is a viable career path which is sort of an odd career path, if you think about it. he was very encouraging and inspiring and then you start out in my teens and 20s, i would look around and, you know, i love the work of people at "the washington post," david lavine who is probably -- i don't know what's the right word. he was pivotal and very influential in the world of caricature. a lot of the -- you still see it in my work somewhat. some of these other works, like these really wonderful -- his
name was head balltman. it was very similar to lavine. he was a master of the big head and the little body and the rye twist of another detail put in there. so lavine was an early influence of mine. that's where i fell in love with crosshatching. the bar is a wonderful collection of cartoons that spans a lot of decades, in fact, a century. and it goes back to another one of the great gran daddies of political cartooning, keppler who drew -- i think it was a publisher. this is back in the golden age of political cartooning. keppler would do these beautiful color lithographs that would be two-page spreads for "puck" magazine. if you remember your american history books, there's the wonderful standard oil cartoon of the oil tank with the
tentacles of the octopus representing rockefeller reaching out. to call it a cartoon is almost putting it down. because it was a really work of art. it was like an oil painting. actually, done as a color lithograph. there's a couple of kepplers here from "puck" magazine and these, ed vaultman and ron covington would be sort of the next ones. the vaultman cartoons are almost all from the reagan era. and i think that's -- that was when richard and i were brought in, it was when people were failing to recognize jean kir patrick and people like that. i had the bartenders, when i've come in to have a drink, some of the bartenders will come in and go, we'll go around and help us -- they're constantly being asked, who are these people. and that's bob dole, don't you
remember bob dole and they shrug, no, i don't remember bob dole. this wall is a mishmash of different cartoonist worksös■ this is richard thompson. that's me. another richard thompson. that's me. these are a couple of color vaultmans that are interesting in comparison to the pure crosshatch ones around the fireplace over there. these are water color images. these were done in the 1970s. richard thompson's style is just -- as a cartoonist, i look at this and it's a beautiful combination of loose line. he was influenced a lot by some of the great english cartoonists, but he took it to@< his own sort of place. i aspire to this kind of looseness, but i'm still at age 60-something working on it. this is one that i did for "politico."
this is a caricature of bernie sanders. i do a crosshatch and then add watercolor. and richard's approach was a classic sort of dip pen. he works in the still that would have fit in perfectly in the 19th century in some ways but is also very, very modern. this is another richard thompson. you can see the difference in that i rely on lots of little lines, black and white lines that sort of harken back to the wooden graving of the thomas nast era. richard's style here, the rendering is done with watercolor. he lets the paint render the shapes. here's a paul ryan that i did for "politico." there's a dick cheney and a karl rove. those are both richard's up there. it's interesting, this wall gets a lot of attention when i come into the bar and sitting around, usually people will stop and
this wall -- maybe because it's right by the door, gets a lot of attention. here's a shameless self-promotion thing that i did for "politico" way back in the very beginning. we -- one of our reporters did a piece about odd couples in washington. people you wouldn't expect to find, say, getting a drink at a bar. and so, of course, this is when i had started doing stuff with the hay adams. this is rahm emmanuel and mitch mcconnell and i situated them in this bar. this was a cover illustration for "politico" back when rahm was chief of staff at the white house for obama. i was far too nice to mitch mcconnell in this one. but sometimes that happens. and then here's a biden, also one of mine. and then a couple more, richard thompson's of laura bush. again, just this lovely, sophisticated -- it looks
simple, but the sophistication and the color scheme and the painting of richard's stuff still sort of is annoying and wonderful. and up in the corner, that's our trump that kevin draws for "the economist," did just recently with a twitter bird on his shoulder. a fabulous piece of color art. in the bar probably 75% of the art that is on the walls are really straight caricatures. there are a number of real political cartoons here as well. and this particular corner has got one by me and one by kevin. this is something he did for "the economist" and this is one i did for "politico." and you can tell the difference in that we've got word bubbles, captions. there's a lot more information and opinion being conveyed in these, of course, which is really what we're about. kevin's is a lovely example of a
good political cartoon, sort of built around a clever visual metaphor. it's conveyed really quickly. in this case it's the boxing ring and it's israel and palestine going at it and obama is the new ref. and you see the old refs, bush, clinton, bush again, reagan, all beat up. it's a lovely example of how you can take a very complicated political issue and ideally if you're doing a good political cartoon, you can distill it down to a nice visual nugget that conveys the complexity, but quickly and hopefully with a little bit of bite. this is a cartoon i did that naturally they liked at the hay adams because it's about the head of the u.s. chamber of
commerce which happens to be next door. and all the money they were spending on the campaign. i should date my cartoons. i believe this one is from 2008. and resistance is futile and they're blasting the democrats with piles and piles of cash. i understand he actually likes this cartoon which fills me with mixed emotions. these two are the oldest ones in the bar and really represent kind of the golden age of american political cartooning which would -- you would have found in "puck" magazine which was a political cartoon magazine. these were done by keppler. they're color lithographs. i wish i knew the exact details of politics at the time. but here you have a classic political cartoon trope. the big thumb of the big interests being held down on the speaker and it says -- the caption down here is very small.
the leader of the minority, he didn't get the speaker's eye because it's under the thumb of big interests. and this is of course uncle sam. uncle sam being a creation of political cartoonists. and i believe most people credit thomas nast with really sort of creating the uncle sam that the rest of us recognize and cartoonists utilize all the time. but this is a -- this is not -- this is the lithographic print and the nice thing about "puck" in the wonderful golden age of cartooning, they gave us lots of space. nowadays, we get shrunk down like that. this is some of the best color
printing especially at the time to display a political cartoon. in 2018, cartoonists are working in a digital realm and the biggest audience for our cartoons are on smartphones and ipads and retina displays let us do all sorts of elegant water color and other nuance that begins to rival the kind of cartoon that you could do on a big scale like keppler got to do. in some ways, we're getting back to this kind of cartooning. these cartoons are from "the washington post." ann does political cartoons that are often animated gifs. she won the pulitzer prize back -- i think it was in 2000 for her static political cartoons and it has moved on to animation. these were studies that ann did for a cartoon she created around the inauguration of obama. ann is not a crosshatcher.
she actually went to cal arts and is a trained animator. you can see it in her very strong line style that really stands out. she now works also in watercolor as well. the hay adams has a sort of special place in washington and this bar in particular. the first time i came in the bar was probably 17 years ago. and a friend of mine brought me down here and you could still smoke in bars in washington. and this was a smoking bar. this was a cigar bar and we came in on a cold winter night. i had just moved to washington from the west coast and was fascinated by the culture of the city. you walked in here and there was this inversion layer of cigar smoke and everybody was having conversation in wingback chairs. it was right out of a cartoon. this is the den of inequity that
you imagine being in the white house or something. and there's this cave that is in the back that they can close off. it's -- there's really no place like it then a few years ago, besides providing cartoons to decorate the walls, hans had the idea of doing coasters. and so they commissioned original art for these. and cal and ann and myself, every six months or so we'll design little caricature cartoons of people who are in the news then are used for coasters and handed out to people here. and it's an interesting exercise in american politics, because, you know, certain caricatures, like this is a hillary clinton, you know are going to be somewhat evergreen, she's not going anywhere. but some of the other characters
that we draw, you're not sure if they're going to be in the news, for instance, sean spicer was an obvious one we thought about doing when trump came to down and we didn't do a coaster for spicer because he came and went. like wise scaramucci and the like. these are always fun assignments and we situate the politicos in the bar doing various things usually add, if you can, little details. like this is cal's pence caricature and he's drinking with a beer stein that looks like donald trump. there's little touches like that. this was my hillary one. hillary leaving the hotel and she has bill carrying all the baggage, luggage, baggage. either way you get the joke. these were done by ron covington, back in mostly the '80s, i think. and covington has a distinctive
style. he's related to the david lavene school of caricature. he took it his own direction. there's a lot of gray scale and they're beautifully done. caricature is a strange thing. when you're trying to caricature somebody, you exaggerate features and there are limits to the exaggeration. some caricatures are very good of going right to the edge of taking it away from something you would recognize as that individual. covington's stuff is like that. this boris yetton is an exaggerated, pushing to the forms. here's a bird, senator bird from west virginia. jerry brown. it's always fascinating when you also work with people sometimes i'll talk to art students and do workshops with caricature, and it's amazing how you don't
always have to be so rendered and detailed. presidential caricature in particular but true of probably all political figures can become a simple iconic thing. george bush, barack obama, i can draw six lines and people would go that's george bush or there's barack obama. once you've done the outline of the face and say the ears with obama, even before you completed it, people can tell what you're drawing. so it's a mystical thing. our facial recognition software in our brains is acute and it's one of the things that caricaturists can use. my instinct, what i'm paid for at politico is to have a political opinion and express it strongly. same with ann and same with cal. we have to dial that back.
which i also understand is not just that we don't want to unnecessarily roil people when they come in for a drink at the bar or something like that. but one of the nice things about the bar and what i learned about the culture of washington is there's this lovely word that members of congress use called comedy where you get along. you figure out how to get along with people you may disagree with politically but you can sit down and have a drink with them. that's the spirit we bring to the bar and the coasters. we'll suspend our political opinions. save that for our political cartoons and in this case maybe have light-hearted fun with the caricatures and the coasters. american history tv on cspan
3, exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend, saturday at 2:00 p.m. eastern on oral history, virginia lee recounts her time as an army nurse during the vooed vietnam war. sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern milton jones recalls his experience as a marine in vietnam. sunday at 6:00 p.m. eastern on the civil war the depiction of slavery in hollywood films. sunday at 6:30 p.m. eastern, the assassination attempt on ronald reagan. and we'll look at president's first address to a joint session of congress, president ronald reagan from 1981 and president bill clinton from 1993. exploing the american story, watch american history tv this weekend on cspan three. author richard