LAUGH LINES: Alan Dunn’s New Yorker Cartoons of the Second World War

JANUARY 30 – MARCH 16, 2014

SUArt Galleries

Working with objects to create an exhibition gives art history graduate students a unique assignment with which to sharpen their research and writing skills. Assistant Professor of Art History Sascha Scott and her graduate students did just that by collaborating with the SUArt Galleries to develop a show of Alan Dunn’s political cartoons. Dunn, one of The New Yorker magazine’s most prolific artists, created more than 2000 cartoons spanning forty-seven years. The University Art Collection manages the Petty-Dunn Center for Social Cartooning that houses over 2500 examples of Dunn’s work, in addition to extensive groups of images by his wife Mary Petty and drawings by other noted social cartoonists.

Scott’s students participated in the HOA 655 seminar Graduate Research Methods and Scholarly Writing, which is aimed at professionalizing their research, writing, and presentation skills. To this end, Scott and David Prince, SUArt Galleries Associate Director and Curator of Collections, selected thirteen World War II era cartoons by Dunn for the students to study. The artist probed American attitudes toward the war, addressing issues of class, ethnicity, gender, and technology, as well as the surprising and sometimes tense exchanges between allies and between enemies. Scott guided students through the process of researching and writing about these objects. Students examined the visual and contextual nuances of Dunn’s work, and conveyed their findings through annotated labels and catalog essays.

Through their research and visual analyses, Scott’s students learned first hand the truth of Alan Dunn’s comment, “the work of a social cartoonist, whose pen is no sword but a titillating feather…reminds us constantly that we do not act as we speak or think.”


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