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Cartoon Network: Martin Rowson

Words will never hurt me… but a political cartoon might

Written by . Published on November 29th 2011.

Cartoon Network: Martin Rowson

MARTIN Rowson was born in London on 15 February 1959. Concerned primarily with the written word, he studied English at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Whilst at university, he began to launch his career as a political cartoonist. Rowson started contributing provocative cartoons and illustrations to Broadsheet and had his first set of cartoons published – ‘Scenes from the Lives of Great Socialists’ – shortly after he graduated. The cartoons ran from 1982 to 1983 and were later published as a book.

Rowson’s work has proved that being talked about is often whole lot better than going unnoticed – it wasn’t long before politicians started asking Rowson to draw them.

During the course of his longstanding career, Rowson has had a turbulent relationship with the newspaper industry. Nonetheless, he has rigorously contributed editorial and financial cartoons, caricatures and strips to the Guardian, Time Out, Dublin Sunday Tribune, Independent on Sunday, Weekend Guardian, Independent Magazine, Daily Mirror, Observer, Daily Express, The Scotsman, and the Times Educational Supplement. It’s no wonder that he claims to be far more concerned with being taken seriously as a journalist, rather than an artist.

Each of his creations has been designed to provoke, anger and antagonize by addressing the political taboos that words alone would fail to adequately capture. Rowson has never sought professional artistic training; it is his quick wit and eagle eyes that have earned him artistic prestige and fame. He follows in the familiar footsteps of Gillroy and Hogarth in that his work is deliberately a little offensive, carrying the burden of a gloriously exaggerated truth in order to highlight what usually goes unspoken.


Rowson’s work has proved that being talked about is often whole lot better than going unnoticed – it wasn’t long before politicians started asking Rowson to draw them. In the words of the man himself, “I think they pretend they don’t mind, whilst cartoonists pretend they matter.” Rowson’s entire career marks the manipulative power of the media. He is, without a doubt, most celebrated for undermining the country’s powerful figures through charismatic self-expression rather than authority, his drawings teaching that we have the born right to disapprove and mustn’t be afraid to do so.

The political journalist stroke artist paradoxically achieved fame through bouts of unpopularity and rejection. He angers one group of people whilst humouring another. His illustrations have the power to unnerve and to embolden, exposing political behaviour whilst remaining highly entertaining.

The Gay Hussar, a Hungarian restaurant on Greek Street Soho, proudly exhibits an array of the work that Martin Rowson’s has produced of various politicians during their visit to the restaurant. Gay Hassar are launching a competition that puts the winner in the position of a politician – the opportunity to be drawn by Martin Rowson over lunch or dinner. The winner will have the chance to chat with Rowson, no doubt a fascinating dining companion as someone which such strong opinions. The winner also gets to take their portrait home with them.

Visit www.GayHussar.co.uk for more information

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