In this thoroughgoing and lively biography, Fiona Deans Halloran focuses not just on Nast's political cartoons for "Harper's" but also on his place within the complexities of Gilded Age politics and highlights the many contradictions in his own life: he was an immigrant who attacked immigrant communities, a supporter of civil rights who portrayed black men as foolish children in need of guidance, and an enemy of corruption and hypocrisy who idolized Ulysses S. Grant. He was a man with powerful friends, including Mark Twain, and powerful enemies, including William M. "Boss" Tweed. Halloran interprets Nast's work, explores his motivations and ideals, and illuminates Nast's lasting legacy on American political culture.
- ISBN-13: 9780807835876
- ISBN-10: 0807835870
- Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
- Publish Date: January 2013
- Page Count: 384
- Dimensions: 9.41 x 6.54 x 1.16 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.52 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Thomas Nast may be known as “The Father of Modern Political Cartoons,” but history teacher Halloran’s thorough biography of the 19th-century journalist is much more than mere caricature. The author springboards from Albert Bigelow Paine’s 1904 biography of Nast to cover his early years before focusing on his illustrious career and complicated relationship with various political players. A pioneer of illustrated journalism, Nast produced cartoons as diverse in tone and subject matter as Santa Claus (for Harper’s Weekly) and the now ubiquitous metaphoric portrayals of the Democratic and Republican parties as donkey and elephant, respectively. Halloran describes Nast’s rise and fall at Harper’s, his relentless campaign against the corrupt New York politician Boss Tweed, his idolization of President Grant, as well as his role as dedicated family man. The narrative starts slowly and occasionally lapses into dry academese, but a healthy sampling of Nast’s cartoons—which showcase his meticulous attention to detail, keen eye for satire, and occasional tinge of whimsy—keep things lively in this rich portrait of the multifaceted artist, social crusader, political commentator, and devoted father and husband. Illus. (Jan.)