Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 14, 2011

NJ Politicians Blast Thomas Nast Hall Of Fame Nomination


There's a bit of stuff on the wires this morning about a pair of New Jersey assemblymen seeking to bar Thomas Nast from inclusion in some sort of state Hall Of Fame because of his anti-Irish Catholic illustrations. I think it's a fine thing to discuss. I've always personally believed that people can achieve greatness and in the course of doing so make some distressing art, but when you're talking about something completely made-up like a hall of fame, I feel the folks involved should be allowed to apply any standard they want, and people that aren't should be allowed to suggest different standards if they want. Why not? It's all an exercise in values. I also have to admit that my personal prejudices are such that the politician that chose to describe Nast's work as "so-called" art gets a nomination for my own Hall Of Fame, the Hall Of People That Say Stupid Things. I mean, some of that work is troubling, and depending on the standards this is the kind of thing that may indeed disqualify someone from entry into a hall of fame. It's clearly art, though, born of craft and specific intent. In fact, it's because it's art that it still holds the power to disturb.

I honestly have no idea if Nast's drawing table yielded the occasional anti-Irish illustration because of a laser beam hatred for Tammany Hall politics, or if he dipped into the larger anti-Irish and anti-Catholic zeitgeist of his time. I look forward to finding out.
posted 3:10 am PST | Permalink

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