Show celebrates rude, crude British humor in arthumor

Mon Jun 7, 2010 9:32am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - "I think of them all as prats to start with and work from there" -- veteran cartoonist Gerald Scarfe's irreverent approach to politicians he lampoons is typical of a new show celebrating British humor in art.

"Rude Britannia: British Comic Art," which opens at Tate Britain in London on Wednesday and runs until September 5, traces the comic in British art from the 17th century to today, taking in William Hogarth, the "Carry On" comedy films and television show "Spitting Image."

Scarfe, who helped design the room dedicated to politics in the exhibition, said political leaders from Napoleon to Churchill and Thatcher were fair game.

"Those arrogant enough to set themselves up as our leaders are there to be questioned," he told Reuters at the show.

"It's great to be able to make a point, and it's healthy too," added Scarfe, who has been cartoonist at the Sunday Times for more than 40 years and is also renowned for his animation work for rock group Pink Floyd and its "The Wall" album.

"Cartoonists are the mavericks of the art world ... but have not been accepted in the same way (as other artists)," he said. "They don't realize the same prices and they don't realize the same attention."

In Rude Britannia, which goes some way to redressing that imbalance, Scarfe depicts a tiny Napoleon on a giant white horse, Thatcher as a prehistoric creature "Torydactyl" and Barack Obama as Superman with his feet stuck in glue-like oil.