Thursday 28th of September 2023

a giant cartoonist... james gillray


Before the birth of Gus Leonisky, and other world-famous cartoonists (Gus has a big ego in a small head), there was a (now mostly forgotten) rabid engraver who did the most enlightened of political cartoons. We, modern satirists, cannot even rise to the level of his ankles. His output and intellectual punch seem not to have been ever matched, even by the likes of Petty and Moirs in Australia, nor in France with Charlie Hebdo nor the Canard Enchainé. In America, blancmange cartooning and glorification of the US heroes in Marvels and Supermanhood comics has been an essential industrial mind-control exercise to promote “the American way” and the empire — and Charlie Chaplin, an Englishman, became part of the trick.

In England, 18th and 19th centuries, James Gillray pushed the boundaries of knowledge and insight about the tricks of governments that make us, modern cartoonists, look like choirboys with the brains of little tits (the birds). Nowadays, we’re swamped with limpishness and childish craptology of say a Warren Brown of the DT that supports the right-wing defecations of a Scummo. The modern penmanship and the satire has gone down by many notches, and this state of affairs has been due to our culture of favouring the mediocre average, “democratically" driven by a Rompet Morduct and his competitors, who prefer us to vegetate below the age of six till we die. 

To achieve Gillray’s level of lucid acidity one needs a much greater twisted mind than a Salvador Dali mixed with the foresight of a Lucian de Samosata and the devilish sublety of a Dante. As well, one needs an extraordinary skill of patient speedy accuracy, a 150% vision and the gall of a famished dingo searching for babies. These days, plodding magazines (especially for females) fill our brains with reports on the gowns of beauuuutifuuuul princesses and their glorious pregnancies. Gillray would tell us that these princesses had been fucked by moronic princes who fucked with your mind as well. We have sanitised reality beyond recognition. 

When I read my old writings from 60 years ago, I shudder. I was too seriously accepting that the world was genuinely in search of solution for its decomposing slump — and I was being too didactic. Despite my cartoons savaging the establishment for its failures, I had not realised yet that these failures had been deliberately created to keep us in the dark like the proverbial mushrooms. 

James Gillray had seen the light way before this. We have to relearn. He knew that the upper-crapcrust was bullshitting with a devious determination to make sure we toiled. And toiled we did and still do, to fill the coffers of the rich. This is why the English government tried to shut him (and his mates) down with a decree. 

The Royal Proclamation Against Seditious Writings and Publications had been "Given at our Court at the Queen's House" on May 21st and was published in full by various newspapers over the next few days. It was in large part a response to the huge popularity of Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man which had been published in two parts—the first in March 1791, and the second in February 1792, and a growing fear that foreign powers (these days we don’t seem to go pass Moscow, when Washington is doing the damage) were actively trying to "raise groundless jealousies and discontents in the minds of our faithful and loving subjects.

Nothing new...

… it did contain the ominous injunction "to our Magistrates in and throughout our Kingdom. . .that they do make diligent inquiry, in order to discover the Authors and Printers of such wicked and seditious Writings.” 

Our political class has had to deign come down to our echelon in order to get our fake approval — our vote, because we live in a “democracy”. In fact we live in the sewers of an intestinal bowel motion, in which the only outlet is the arseholocracy

James Gillray was a beacon of sanity in an age of condescending kingdomcracy. We, on this little site, hope to achieve at least one percent of his extraordinary visionary exposure of the stupidity we have loaded humankind with, since the Roman empire till our modern times.

Gus Leonisky
Your local average avenging cartoonist.

Notes about the cartoon at top:
The subtitle of the print reads as follows:

To the Commons of Great Britain, this representation of Vices, which remain unforbidden by Proclamation, is dedicated, as proper for imitation, and in place of the more dangerous ones of Thinking, Speaking & Writing, now forbidden by Authority.

Sounds familiar with Assange facing the gallows...

The print consists of four panels, each devoted to a different vice, and each one illustrated by a member of the royal family.

Avarice shows the King and Queen hugging sacks of money, repeating the claim of royal greed and hording made in previous Gillray prints such as A New Way to Pay the National Debt (1786) and The Introduction(1791). The account book open on the table before them inscribed "
Account of Money at interest in Germany" recalls the similar charge made in An Angel, Gliding on a Sun Beam into Paradice that the Queen maintained a kind of private slush fund back in her home country.

Drunkeness shows the Prince of Wales identified by the star on his jacket and the three plumed feathers over the doorway being led away from a tavern/brothel in a drunken stupor. Much to the amusement of the night watchmen supporting him, the Prince has been obviously overcome by the strength of the "Neat" (uncut) wines sold there.

Gambling shows Frederick, Duke of York, who followed in his older brother's footsteps, with dice cup raised, addicted to gambling, and forever in debt.

Debauchery shows Prince William Henry, the Duke of Clarence, in a pose recalling Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, burnishing his reputation as a ladies' man, with his latest mistress, Mrs. Jordan, whose name, unfortunately was synonymous with a chamber pot.

Gillray had often created two-panel caricatures, usually suggesting a before and after scenario. This was his first use of a four-panel format.

a much greater twisted mind than salvador dali...

french collossus

James Gillray, “Destruction of the French Collossus,Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,





Gus note: In the last panel of the top cartoon, there is a jug in a frame. Gillray placed it there to "suggest the lady's name, Mrs. Jordan, unfortunately was synonymous with a chamber pot". I suspect that, as shown in some of Martin van Maële's porn cartoons of the early 1900s, the maids sometimes engaged in collecting the sperm from male servants (using a jug) to impregnate the lady of the lord's house — including princes and kings — as to minimise inbreeding and also when the lord was impotent, gay or infertile.

guess who's coming to a petit souper...

pitt and napoleon

William Pitt the Younger (28 May 1759 – 23 January 1806), a prominent British Tory statesman of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, became the youngest UK Prime Minister in 1783, at the age of 24, till 1801. He served as Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer for most of his time as well as Prime Minister. 

Pitt's prime ministership came during the reign of George III, and was dominated by European troubles, especially the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Pitt, although a Tory, or "new Tory", called himself an "independent Whig”, led Britain in the great wars against France and Napoleon. Pitt worked for efficiency and reform, bringing in a new generation of outstanding administrators. He increased taxes to pay for war against France and cracked down on radicalism. To engage the threat of Irish support for France, he also engineered the Acts of Union 1800, trying to get the Catholic "emancipation" as part of the Union. All in all, he revived the Tory Party and enabled it to stay in power for another 25 years.

Pitt was solitary but exuded superiority in public. He came to the fore in the war against France, to become "the Atlas of our reeling globe". His integrity, his work and role as defender of the nation gave him the strength to motivate all the nationalism of England. He was one of the greatest prime ministers as well for having enabled the country to transit from the old order to a new one without any violent upheaval … This was "the new" Britain. Pitt is ranked amongst the best British Prime Ministers, unlike Theresa May who has been holding the Brexit baby as a rag doll, and so far is a bloody mess.

In the Gillray cartoon above, Pitt and Napoleon carve up the world… The rest is history:
The Plumb-pudding in Danger (1805). The world being carved up into spheres of influence between Pitt and Napoleon. According to cartoonist Martin Rowson, it is "probably the most famous political cartoon of all time, it has been stolen over and over and over again by cartoonists ever since."

Read from top.

See also:

where are our modern cartoonists?...


This is 2019!


This is the year when a cartoon character rules the world: Donald Trump. This leaves the cartoonists with little room to move. We could go and try to get support from the sane people, but the other idiots in this comic strip are first-class loonies from Mueller to Hillary Clinton. Joe Biden is straight out of "The Simpsons".


We cartoonists of the planet have lost traction. We never had much power anyway, but at least we tried. The present publishers are shy, coy and regret having published the truth. Yes, cartooning is about the truth, only the truth, your honour. But now? Nothing... No revolution of the pen can enter the average mediocre main stream media. It's as if the inkwell of outrage has dried up. Let's face it, we have been rejected. The pigs of Big Brother have been running the planet under various guises, since Adam and Eve. 


This is why I lament the disappearance from the front page, or even from the internal bowels of newspapers, of great art like that of Glen LeLIEVRE and Leunig. These glorious artists are only sporadically used as quirky, rather than full frontals as they should be. We deserve better news service through cartooning. Where are the great cartoons about Assange being crucified? Where are the great cartoons of Trump being Trump? Not even Saturday Night Live can match The Donald's own accented stupidity talking about the Venezuelan situation as if he knew poordom. It's pathetic. 


And please do not try to make Hillary or the Dems look better in underpants. They stink!... Instead of caring, we end up with who can "grand geste" the smartest political puns about people dying in Yemen. Politics are running like rivers of muck in the sewers before entering the ponds of evaporation and it looks we have little to hope for: sunshine will only dry up the turds on the pavement.

We need you, Glen and Michael to push the envelope one more time forever. Further. Both cartoonists were brave for their stand against Israel and I believed paid "a price". Be brave! I know, it's tiring to preach to wilting cactuses in the desert, but you should not underestimate — a lizard might talk to a butterfly and you know the rest about a butterfly in the Brazilian rainforest creating a storm in the Caribbean...

The only one left in the open air — a cartoonist that is — to manage to slip under the censorship radar of the editors is Cathy Wilcox. All the other are weak, meek, right wing and compelled to agree to a set of PC rules, including balance (fuck balance!) — or they are not published. Aren't we in trouble!... 


So what do we do? First a couple of great cartoons from the young masters:








Now "we" want something less whimsical and more a direct blow to the gonads of our leaders. Lets get inspiration from the master at top.


Gus will do my best, but his old brain is fucked... Do your best, make sure more people see your work. 



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changing the landscape of manipulation...



The AfD increases its reach by posting photo collages multiple times. One image of an alleged schoolyard fight was posted on 16 different party accounts. Another, about Muslims in the German armed forces, was posted by at least nine accounts. Refugee-themed posts dominate their accounts, but the party also addresses the Fridays for Future environmental demonstrations and the recent ban on diesel vehicles in some Germany cities. "The AfD is producing hundreds of photo posts per day," says Davis. "Who is doing all that work?"

The AfD declines to answer that question. A long-requested visit to the newsroom of the parliamentary group in federal parliament was initially agreed to, but then cancelled. The party spokesperson promised to arrange a meeting with one of the party's social-media experts, but that didn't pan out in time for publication either. 

But the AfD spokesman did indicate his surprise: "Are we doing so much more than the others?" He claims that there are only three people at party headquarters who oversee the social networks, though there are, he says, "a couple of freelancers" who build graphics, and one who produces short, animated films.


And the help apparently isn't just coming from Germany. Davis has found countless photos among the AfD posts that come from Russian image databases, leading him to wonder if perhaps the party is getting some social media assistance from Moscow. The AfD's spokesperson rejects this claim, at least when it comes to the accounts run by party headquarters. He said he can't be sure about the other accounts.

In intelligence circles, analysts believe such a scenario to be plausible. Experts believe that support for the AfD is consistent with Moscow's strategic intention of destabilizing Western democracies by strengthening extremist forces. Just a few weeks ago, DER SPIEGEL revealed just how close Russia's relationship is with some AfD politicians.


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Gus can reveal that with modern computers one can create a million pictures/graphics a day... Some will gain traction. Some will be rubbish. The "Russian" data/picture base is not "exclusive" and often does not have the same draconian costs associated with say Reuters and other US picture agencies.

As you may have noticed, I have my own picture library (say more than 250,000 pictures and several billion of intact neurones) which I use most time to illustrate a point. The internet is a grey area as far as copyright is concerned because there is clause of fair usage for non-profit news reposting, with source quoted.

Should you be a for-profit business, you could be hit for six for using copyrighted material. But even news bulletin have to cover their arse by splashing across the vision "exclusive by such and such" in order for the source material to be known when "republished" on other channels.

It is well known in the business of TV news that sources that should be mentioned, especially when from a competing channel, are not mentioned. Suing is fraught with counter court action because let's face it, they all do it. Most news editors will play the "sorry, we forgot" card till next time.

In the end, for the German right-wing populists, it's a matter of dedication by the employees and determination of those who try to peddle a political viewpoint, while understanding the technology and the psychology.

Hate is easier to promote than compassion.

Scientific ignorance is easier to promote than science.

Fear of the other is inbuilt in all of us.




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the end of cartooning? You're kidding, aren't you?

Political cartoons have a long and impressive history. The power they wield is not to be underestimated.

Louis XVI lost his head in part because of a series of salacious drawings that undermined the reputation of Marie Antoinette.

Napoleon was said to have counted the British cartoonist James Gillray among his enemies, allegedly declaring Gillray "did more than all the armies in Europe to bring me down".

And in the early 1940s, whenever the great cartoonist David Low lampooned the Führer in the pages of the London Evening Standard, the German foreign office apparently descended into apoplexy. Low was put on an SS death list.

Through satire and irony, political cartoonists have the ability to cut through complexity and speak truth to power.

They've long been regarded as the mark of a healthy democracy, says political branding expert Lorann Downer.

"Their power comes from their emotional punch. It gets in under the reason and the rationality and it speaks to the heart," she tells RN's Big Ideas.

"It helps people articulate something that they've been feeling but perhaps haven't been able to say and certainly not as succinctly and powerfully. So, it's an important part of the political discourse."

But political cartoonists are under threat right across the Western world — their numbers are dwindling.

"There were 200 in America about five years ago," says Brisbane-based cartoonist Sean Leahy, a long-time employee of The Courier-Mail. 

"Now there's apparently 20 major daily editorial cartoonists. They've been completely gutted."

Despite being one of this country's most celebrated and prolific practitioners, Leahy now says he questions the very future of his profession.

"I'm at the pointy end of what's happening to cartooning in Australia and I don't like what I see."

Leahy has twice won a Walkley Award for his work and was once sued for defamation by the notorious former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

He says even those who still have permanent employment are experiencing a steadily decreasing call on their services.

"I used to draw six days a week and I now draw one day a week. So, it's a highly charged issue for me, I can tell you."

That decline has been obvious to Michael Evans, a senior curator at the Museum of Australian Democracy. Evans is responsible for the annual Behind the Lines exhibition of political cartooning.

"There certainly are fewer of them," he agrees.

"A few years ago, we would get, say, 40 cartoonists represented in the exhibition, now it's down to the low 30s."

For Fiona Katauskas, the decline of political cartooning mirrors the demise of the print media industry more generally.

"Dire, absolutely dire. For people starting out there are just not those freelance opportunities that let people get their foot in the door and allow them to make money," she says.

When Katauskas started her career 22 years ago, newspapers and magazines were plentiful and hungry for illustrations.

"There's a fraction of the cartoons there used to be. When they started cutting them I thought, everyone is going to notice and kick up a fuss, and they didn't.

"I used to get a lot of work from The Sydney Morning Herald and I'd do a political cartoon once a week," she says.

"There were cartoons in the music section, in the drive section, in the restaurant review, and it was just something that was considered part of a paper."

She now supplements her cartooning by also working as a television producer and book illustrator and says very few political cartoonists can make a decent living.

"The last time I worked for the Herald, I got paid about a third of what I'd been paid 14 years before."

A tighter leash

Straitened economic times have also seen a shift in the editorial scope given to political cartoonists by newspaper publishers.

Australian artists long enjoyed a high degree of editorial independence, but as newspapers have become more partisan in recent years, that independence has declined, Leahy says.

"I mean, they own the paper, they're entitled to publish whatever they like to publish, I'm entitled to draw whatever I like, they don't have to publish it, so they don't," he says.

"Certainly, cartoons that I have done have not been published. There is censorship of cartoonists now.

"There used to be more voices, different cartoonists saying lots of different things."

Evans argues the more limited political licence now given to many cartoonists reflects a return to the distant past.

He describes the period between the 1960s and the early years of this century as a "golden age" for cartoonists where many became household names. With that, came star power, he says, and greater independence.

"The Pettys and the Tanners, and all of those, they became personalities in their own right, celebrities, and money-earners for the publishers," he says.

"If you look before that, you only got published in the Bulletin, for example, if you toed their line, same with all the other major city newspapers, you toed the line."

The difficulties of transition

Most, if not all, political cartoonists now use digital tools and have a presence on social media. Some have made the transition to the digital environment, but they're well and truly in the minority, Leahy says.

He points to American animated cartoonist Mark Fiore as one of the few successful examples.

"I think it's the monetising of it. That's the challenge because memes are free. I think people won't pay for it."

There's also a demographic shift at play, Katauskas says.

"I've got teenage sons and newspapers aren't around on your coffee or your dining table in the morning, so young people just don't see them," she says.

"Memes are the thing now, and there is debate over whether memes are taking over as the new cartoons and that's going to be the new thing.

"I think it's more a function of less that cartoons haven't been able to translate to digital, as much as digital hasn't been able financially to support cartoonists. Which is a shame because cartoons look glorious on screen."

Evans argues the globalised world has opened-up opportunities for some.

"I think we are now seeing more cartoonists self-publishing digitally," he says.

"Years ago, a cartoon would appear in the Sun Herald and it would be read in Melbourne and that's it. Now it's out there on the web the moment it's published, so anyone around the world can read it, get the joke.

"Obviously, there is not the income stream from that, but in terms of cartoonists actually being able to comment and to get their view across and to continue that long tradition of Australian cartoonists really putting it to the politicians, I think there's still some health in that."

The Australian Financial Review's David Rowe, he says, is a case in point. His satirical take on Donald Trump's presidency now has a significant following in the United States.

Heightened sensibilities

The potential for greater exposure also brings with it an increased risk of misinterpretation, according to Katauskas.

"As a freelancer working from home, what makes perfect sense in your mind might be open to misinterpretation by someone else," she says.

She cites the case of Glen Le Lievre, a Sydney cartoonist who attempted to make a satirical comment about modern xenophobia by referencing the image of a sprawling octopus with a Chinese face, a popular racist depiction from the 1890s.

"I saw that and went 'isn't that brilliant'. I just thought he nailed that. That was great. But if you didn't know the original image, you thought he was actually making a [xenophobic] statement with the tentacles.

"And then to see the reaction, he had to say, 'Oh no, no, I didn't mean it. I was actually referring to a specific image that I was taking the piss out of'."


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As a cartoonist since 1951, I can say with certainty that ... Bugger, I can't remember what I wuz saying... Ah yes, cartooning might have a bit of a lull in some publications presently, but not here hopefully.. I might soon be able to get a better cartooning platform than cut and paste, or coloured pencil... What is most sad has been the demise of most leftie publications, through various devious schemes from governments and fat media owners... Meanwhile, apart from a few published cartoonists, the media has gone for low intellectual value and for cartoons that hit the left in the gonads, while appearing to be fair. Still the net has a few pushing the satirical barrow...

Discussion about serious cartooning can be read here:


And plenty more...



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