WASHINGTON.- As the nation moves toward electing its 44th president, the Smithsonians National Portrait Gallery is opening an exhibition of the political cartoons of Herbert Lawrence Block (19092001), known by the pen name Herblock. In Herblocks Presidents: Puncturing Pomposity, 40 political cartoons demonstrate the witty, biting humor of the cartoonist who appeared in American newspapers for more than seven decades. The cartoons featured in the exhibition were selected from the collections of the Library of Congress. The exhibition demonstrates that none of the 11 presidents who held office during his career escaped his criticism. Herblocks Presidents: Puncturing Pomposity will be on view through Nov. 30.
There are many talented political cartoonists today, some of whom are included in the National Portrait Gallerys collection, said Carolyn K. Carr, acting director of the National Portrait Gallery. However, Herblock remains unmatched in his ability to craft a subtle visual metaphor.
Herblocks cartoons were never ambivalent or balanced but always expressive of a distinct political point of view; they were always clear in meaning and direct in expression. Herblocks first political cartoon appeared in the Chicago Daily News in1929. He was an editorial cartoonist with the Newspaper Enterprise Association from 1933 to 1943 and, after serving in the army, joined The Washington Post in 1946. Maintaining editorial independence for most of his newspaper career, Herblock won three Pulitzer Prizes in 1942, 1954 and 1979 and shared one more with the Washington Post in 1973 for its coverage of Watergate. Also, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. Besides the cartoons, Herblocks awardsincluding his first Pulitzer Prizeand his drawing tools also will be exhibited.
The exhibition includes his depictions of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. While Herblock was generally unsympathetic to Republican presidents, Democrats such as Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did not escape his wrath. He consistently attacked any president he felt was insensitive to the underdog. The show offers a rare opportunity for visitors to see how one of Americas greatest political cartoonists viewed the American presidency for much of the 20th century.
An additional element of the exhibition is a computer touch screen that will allow visitors to further explore Herblocks presidents. These virtual digital images are organized along such topics as presidential scandals, domestic policy and war.