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H.M. Flagler & Co

With a Wink and a Nod: Cartoonists of the Gilded Age

With a Wink and a Nod: Cartoonists of the Gilded Age

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The Flagler Museum's fall 2015 exhibition With a Wink and a Nod: Cartoonists of the Gilded Age showcased rare original drawings made for the American humor magazine Puck, a pioneering publication that helped shape the character of American humor. Created by Austrian immigrant and cartoonist Joseph Keppler, Sr., Puck and its artists sought to bring about change through humor, attacking those guilty of corruption, greed, or vanity, and supporting the rights of the underdogs. Named after Shakespeare's mischievous sprite in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the magazine's masthead featured the character Puck and his famous observation, "What fools these mortals be!" A perfect manifestation of the magazine's editorial point of view, Puck was often depicted in cartoons pointing out the errors – or foolishness - of man's ways.

Published initially as a German-language magazine in 1876, Puck's first English edition was printed in 1877 and continued to 1918. Puck was packed with lavish cartoons, color lithographs, and biting satire about everything from politics to fashion and domesticity. The magazine was the first to use full color lithographs in every issue, employing vivid color on the front cover, centerfold cartoon, and back cover. Puck's cartoons were often bold, graphic, and exaggerated, with content ranging from silly to sarcastic. Artists drew on common stereotypes like the hayseed and the new woman, and caricatured politicians, businessmen, and cultural leaders alike. No one was spared from ridicule, and the magazine's response to complaints was simply, "Can't you take a joke?"

Puck helped develop American humor, from earlier tall–tales to the more urbane and literary humor associated with publications such as the New Yorker, by becoming a training ground for a generation of talented cartoonists. Many of the most important American illustrators of the period contributed work for publication in Puck. Original drawings in a variety of styles by artists such as Samuel Ehrhart, Louis Dalrymple, Louis Glackens, Franklin Howarth, Frederick Opper, and William Rogers are featured in the exhibition. Puck's editors encouraged experimentation and their artists pushed the limits of the art form. The long-running magazine remains a valuable resource for understanding how Americans viewed politics, religion, and other aspects of daily life during the Gilded Age.

With a Wink and a Nod: Cartoonists of the Gilded Age examined the history of Puck and American humor through 72 original drawings created for the magazine from the collection of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, supplemented with published cartoons and vintage issues of Puck. Organized by the Flagler Museum, With a Wink and a Nod ran from October 13, 2015, through January 3, 2016. An illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition.

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