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Cartoons In London: Where To Find Them

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 11 months ago
Cartoons In London: Where To Find Them
Photo by Doug in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Gawp at cartoons

William Hogarth was more than a mere cartoonist, yet his greatest achievement was bringing the medium to the London masses via his engravings. You can dip into Hogarth's seedy, sozzled, satirical Londonscapes at his former house in Chiswick (as well as various other London locales including Sir John Soane's Museum). The century following Hogarth gave birth to Punch magazine, an impish Fleet Street rag whose cartoons lambasted everything from cricket to prostitutes. The Kensington house of former Punch illustrator and editor Linley Sambourne is open for tours on Wednesdays, Saturday and Sundays and has Sambourne's drawing board — upon which he created many a spiffing cartoon.

Then, of course, there's The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury. The plucky little setup hosts some cracking exhibitions and it has a library of more than 5,000 books and 4,000 comics to peruse. House of Illustration in King's Cross often exhibits cartoons too. Also keep your eyes peeled for cartoon exhibitions at the likes of the Tates, and The British Museum. And while it's not open to the public, there's no harm peeking in through the window of Private Eye (arguably Punch's succesor) on Carlisle Street; at the very least you'll get to chuckle at the latest front cover, which they always have on display.

London's walls are a palimpsest of cartoons — everything from rogue Bart Simpsons (see above) to Banksy classics. Just like an actual comic, scenarios are constantly shifting; take a tour with Street Art London. You could also go and see the V&A's Raphael Cartoons, although if you're expecting Peanuts-style punch lines, you'll be sorely disappointed.

Photo by Umbreen Hafeez in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Buy cartoons

Aside from The Cartoon Museum's amply-stocked shop, you'll find stacks of political prints from The Political Cartoon Gallery, and vintage cartoons from specialists like Michael Finney Antique Prints in Bloomsbury and Notions Antiquaria (the latter was until very recently on Cecil Court, but is now sadly online only). There are umpteen places selling comic books and graphic novels, and aside from the obvious places like Foyles and Forbidden Planet, we recommend you check out our guide to London's 10 Best Zine and Mini Comic Shops. There's also a dedicated Tintin shop in Covent Garden, and a nearby Moomin shop, just in case you go for creepy Scandi troll types. Otherwise, you could always get a caricature done by one of the artists who frequent touristy spots like Westminster Bridge and the South Bank.

How many of these politicians can you name? Photo from The Gay Hussar website.

Gorge yourself surrounded by cartoons

Shovel gobfuls of goulash while gawping at Martin Rowson's political grotesques that clutter the walls of Hungarian restaurant The Gay Hussar in Soho (just make sure the likes of Portillo, Cook and Hattersley don't put you off your dinner). There's a similar theme going on in Holborn at Scarfes Bar, where you can sip on politically-themed cocktails, surrounded by Gerald Scarfe's caricatures of beleaguered Blairs and batty Thatchers. Cereal Killer Cafe, in Shoreditch and Camden, runs vintage cartoons on loop — the ideal accompaniment to your bowl of unicorn poop. The shelves themselves are inundated with some of comestible capitalism's best cartoon characters from Tony the Tiger to Cap'n Crunch.

Reckon you're the next James Gillray? © The Trustees of the British Museum

Create cartoons

Think you could be the next Hogarth or Scarfe? There are loads of cartooning courses you can enrol on, including those at The London School of Journalism, London Art College, The Cartoon Museum (again), UAL and Blake College (which is just around the corner from the Cartoon Museum). The Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain — the UK's oldest and largest cartoonists' organisation — held their first ever meeting in 1960 in The Feathers on Tudor Street (now a wine bar), and, we think, still meet there occasionally. For more information and membership, check out their website.

Last Updated 09 June 2016