The US Library of Congress has teamed with University Press of Mississippi to publish a new book surveying the (often neglected) artistic achievements of women in cartooning and illustration. Featuring more than 250 color illustrations, comic strips and political cartoons as well as original artwork from the Library of Congress collections, Drawn to Purpose presents a comprehensive look at the contributions of American women in these fields from the late 19th to the 21st century, compiled by Martha H. Kennedy, curator of popular and applied graphic art.
The book is titled to the Library’s ongoing exhibition of the same name, which opened in November and runs through October 20, 2018.
“Drawn to Purpose brings together a remarkable sampling of book illustrations, posters, industrial design, courtroom sketches, comic strips, political cartoons and art for magazines and newspapers produced by women over a 150-year span,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden wrote in the book’s foreword. “As a kid who read everything, I pored over the illustrations just as much as the accompanying words. Images can make reading more meaningful and more memorable.”
In 1915, portrait painter Cecilia Beaux predicted it would be at least 1,000 years before the term “women in art” would sound as strange as the term “men in art.” Kennedy’s book tracks the incremental progress and societal pressures that kept all but the most resilient women from advancing in the arts. It’s also a story of women artists who were moved by their creative drive, by commerce or by necessity to create art that fulfills a purpose.
Some of the artists and works celebrated in Drawn to Purpose include New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, Lynn Johnston’s long-running For Better or for Worse, innovative artists Lynda Barry and Hilary Price, social barrier breakers Barbara Brandon-Croft and Alison Bechdel, and rising stars like Jillian Tamaki. The 238-page hardcover explores many themes and artistic platforms, including The Golden Age of Illustration, Early Cartoonists, New Voices and New Narratives in Comics, Illustrations for Industry, Editorial Illustrators, Magazine Covers and Cartoons, and Political Cartoonists and Caricaturists.
Drawn to Purpose is available now at the Library of Congress Shop in Washington, DC and online (SRP $50).
The book was made possible by support from the Alfred Bendiner Foundation; support for the exhibition comes from the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon.