Art Young

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Art Young (1866-1943)

Arthur Henry Young (January 14, 1866 – December 29, 1943) was an American political cartoonist.


Art Young: His Life and Times (1939)[edit]

  • Of course clergymen and other paid teachers and moralists admonished us to be upright and unselfish, and for people with good incomes it was easy to condemn those living on the edge of poverty as inferior, impractical, shiftless, and lacking respect for the social code. It was easy to shout thief at the other fellow when you had no temptation to steal-I mean steal in a petty way. But stealing in a big way was often accepted as good business judgment.
  • I found that life was a continual struggle for most of us-and this on a plane not much above that of the struggle of wild animals-and that society dismissed this obvious truth as a negligible factor in determining human conduct as well as our mental and physical well-being. I began to see that this economic battle persisted even in the midst of an exhaustless plenty, and that most humans lived and died trying to succeed in a material sense, in short, to reach the goal of a triumphant animalism.
  • Every one of us is born with some kind of talent. In early manhood or womanhood each individual begins to see a path, though perhaps dimly, that beckons to him or her. All of us have this leaning toward, or desire for doing ably, a certain kind of work, and only want an opportunity to prove our capacity in that direction. These hunches, these signs of one's natural trend, are usually right, and are not to be thrust aside without regret in later life. I am antagonistic to the money-making fetish because it sidetracks our natural selves, leaving us no alternative but to accept the situation and take any kind of work for a weekly wage. We are expected to "make good," which is another way of saying make money. Therefore we do things for which we have no real understanding and often no liking, without thought as to whether it is best for us, and soon or late find that living has become drab and empty.
  • So most of us pray not for riches, but for just enough to assure our living in normal comfort and perhaps a little extra for funeral expenses at the end.
  • I do not think of myself as having arrived at any degree of achievement commensurate with my potential talent and capacity for work. I am just one among the many who have tried to approximate some measure of integrity in a world that is a sorry bewilderment of wretchedness and affluence.
  • During the last four decades of his life-journey, as this chronicle has revealed, it became more and more evident that there was one wrong, one thing over all, standing in the way of honest and contented living the unjust treatment of those who produce the wealth of the world by those who own most of that wealth; and that the continual fight between the moneyed interests and the working people (including artists) was the vital problem of our time. Now, during these recurring and ever-increasing conflicts, is it not obvious that we have to take sides? I think it has come to that, for all of us.
  • I do believe that man is destined to be released for a more ennobling life
  • the change is at hand-the old order is cracking. It has been said that 'the cure for democracy is more democracy'
  • I can see no hope for humanity so long as one's right to live depends upon one's ability to pay the cost of living imposed by those who exploit our daily needs. I think I know human nature well enough to know that the average individual works better when encouraged and praised, and does his worst when humiliated and looked upon as a slave. Some kind of congenial work is necessary to contentment. From the small boy tinkering with the construction of a toy to the old lady knitting, with no thought in their minds of cash payment-we see the desire of human beings to be doing something with their minds and hands. If the continual pressure for monetary gain whenever we render any kind of service were removed, I believe people would enjoy working for the common good. This is demonstrated over and over again in time of floods and other disasters when the call to communal welfare is the only incentive.
  • The horror of unemployment is the final undoing of the worker. When he sees this confronting him he sells himself regardless of the intrinsic worth of his ability. Labor unions and collective bargaining arose to give him some show of power and dignity.
  • Individual development depends upon mass-solution of the economic problems of everyday living. The inventors, thinkers, and the common man have made this world ripe for healthful leisure, and have created far more than enough goods for all. But through all this progress the business man has assumed the right to the lion's share while those who did the creating and hard work were compelled to fight for whatever they could get-or starve.
  • the big war of 1914-1918 was not my war. It was plainly not a war for democracy but for plutocracy; not for peace but for plunder, and to make our country military-minded. It was capitalism's war-not mine.
  • With more and more governments, however crude and experimental, dedicated to industrial democracy and universal brotherhood, the era of peace and joy in living will come on earth.
  • we got a hint of how the [Espionage Act] would be used as a club against people with anti-war beliefs
  • Most of us who were cooperatively bringing out [the Masses] were agreed upon that. Some channel of protest must be safeguarded for those who had not been stampeded into dumb obeisance to the world's war-makers.
  • Slacker had come into the language as a term of frequent use. Bundles of Hearst newspapers had been burned in Times Square because Hearst was slow in swinging to the Allied cause but in a few weeks he had swung, and American flags were printed all over his daily sheets. So-called pro-Germans were being tarred and feathered by mobs in the West. Frank Little of the I.W.W. executive board had been lynched by business men in Butte, Montana. And new and appalling tales of cruelty to conscientious objectors were coming out of the prisons where they were confined.
  • In my youth I hoped for no higher status in life than to be among those who would follow in the wake of [Thomas Nast], [Joseph Keppler], and Bernard Gillam, outstanding artists in the field of political caricature. And when in my early twenties I grew familiar with the political and social satires of the graphic artists of England and France across two centuries, these gave even greater stimulus to my ambition. Dreamily I anticipated that my destiny was to succeed as a caricaturist of some influence in public affairs.
  • Sometimes a prosperous individual will say to me: "Any man can succeed in his ambition if he really wants to. Take you, for instance. Haven't you accomplished what you wanted to do?" And I answer: "Yes" Then I have a repentant feeling for saying that because "No" would be quite as correct. I tell him that "Yes" is only one small word of a full, honest answer: only a little part of the whole truth. I point out that I was compelled to waste about half of my life scheming and worrying over the problem of making enough money to keep going, while attempting at the same time to put aside some of it for lean years and old age, like a dog hiding a bone. This exercise of my acquisitive sense, this trying to mix business with creative ability-though it did not strangle my talent-might have done so except for fortuitous circumstances, kind and encouraging parents, limited competition, and an instinct which told me it ought not to be strangled if I could possibly help it. Or perhaps a little bird singing in a tree-top just for joy helped to give me the hint. Finally I achieved a kind of success.
  • Material considerations thwarted me at every turn. It was my money-earning ability that determined my right to exist, and I got through in a way-but what a way! Having spent so much of my time maneuvering to make enough cash with which to live decently, I count most of that effort a hindrance to my development, both as a man and as an artist. Instinctively most men are proud to be able to provide for themselves and their dependents, and I was no exception to the rule. That duty I accepted willingly. Still it seemed to me unworthy of any one to make that the main reason for living.
  • It took me a long time to understand why so much that surrounded me was too ugly to tolerate without protest. But eventually I learned the reason. I saw that the conduct of my fellow-men could not be otherwise than disappointing, in fact parasitical and corrupt, and that most of our troubles emanated from a cause which manifestly would grow worse so long as we put up with it. That cause was Capitalism. Man's natural self-interest. become perverted and ruthless! The motivating principle of business (though not openly confessed), when summed up, meant: "Get yours; never mind the other fellow." I saw, too, that our law-makers and judges of the meaning of the law put property rights first and left human rights to shift for themselves.
  • I was in deadly earnest about developing my talent, and carousing had no lure for me. I applied myself assiduously to the work in hand, and as I proceeded I became more and more convinced that graphic art was my road to recognition. Painting interested me no less, but I thought of it as having no influence. If one painted a portrait, or a landscape, or whatever, for a rich man to own in his private gallery, what was the use? On the other hand, a cartoon could be reproduced by simple mechanical processes and easily made accessible to hundreds of thousands. I wanted a large audience. . . The prevailing art of that period embraced a thorough, almost photographic, lens-like observance of detail. Gerome, Messonier, Cabanel, Vibert, and Bougeaureau were in the forefront of the artworld then, because they were accurate, precise draftsmen.
  • To escape from such thoughts I would go back to my drawing board and plunge into the making of pictures. And now I found a new means of escape-lectures and libraries. Both enabled me to get away for a little while from my discontented thoughts because of loss of freedom through wedlock. Lately I realized anew that my education was inadequate. So many questions came up that I couldn't answer, and I needed to fortify myself with such answers. By listening to the lectures and reading a wide variety of books I nursed the seed which had been planted in my mind by Keir Hardie's speech in Denver, and by Myron Reed's discussions of the human struggle there.
  • Speakers for the Social Democratic party provided me with much food for thought. They attacked the whole capitalistic system, showed how its different units combined to exploit the producing masses to the nth degree, and how the distorted or suppressed news to protect this system, of which it was a part. Being loyal to the press, my first reaction to this denunciation was one of resentment, though I had to concede that some of the charges were true.
  • Listening to lectures on the class struggle (after I discovered that such a struggle had been going on for ages), I found that I had a great deal in common with the everyday workers. In other years I had felt that as a newspaper artist I was a member of a profession which enjoyed important privileges and in which a man might possibly rise to fame and fortune. But I saw now that everyone who did productive work of any kind was at the mercy of those who employed him. They could make or break him whenever they so willed...I was living in a world morally and spiritually diseased, and I was learning some of the reasons why.
  • Perhaps no editor has been so guilty of stirring up the baser passions of human beings as Hearst. Often in his early years as an editor and publisher, he did some political arousings on the side of the workers. It helped him get circulation. Gradually, however, he evolved a policy which prevailed over all liberal doctrines that he might advocate-devoting his publications to the will of the big moneyed interests to have and to retain everything that they possessed and to insure their hopes of getting more through their 'superior intelligence'
  • And with this feeling, I poised in my mind some other questions as to the soundness of beliefs I had long held, based upon copy-book maxims drilled into one generation of American children after another: "Merit wins...Survival of the fittest...You can't change human nature...The best people...The poor you have with you always...and the whole long line of rubber-stamp moral precepts. What were these but glittering emblems set up by the moneyed class to serve its own purposes? Born bourgeois, my brain had been filled from infancy with the nonsense of super-patriotism, with the lily-white virtues of imperialism added in due time. I had harbored these false values because I didn't know any better. I had been a drifter, innocent and sheep-minded long enough.
  • Now that I was awakening to the realities of the economic struggle, I realized that I could no longer conscientiously deal with certain subjects in the way that editors wanted them handled. I had ideas for pictorial attacks on institutions hooked up with the money power, but there was no sale for these. The few papers which dared strike at the system were small, and had no money to pay for my product. And I had to live and support a family.
  • Where was I headed? I didn't quite know. I had talent, facility, and a desire to produce-but steadily my market was diminishing. I fell back on illustrated jokes, and even here struck a snag. Tramps were no longer so funny to me as they had been. And my attitude toward the farmer had changed-I no longer wanted to depict him as a mere comic character. His life was all too often bound up with tragedy. The Populists had been right in many of the things they had said about the farmer's plight.
  • With all my self-consciousness about looks (and it maybe a feminine streak that is said to be in every artist), I have long had a dislike for individuals who judge others by surface aspects, whether it be a matter of clothes regarded as incorrect for the occasion, a spot on a shirt-front, or need of a shave. Keeping up appearances all too often is the concern of persons who have nothing else worth keeping up.
  • Novel reading called for wading through too much type. I had no patience for that. The very word "fiction" I abhorred. I wanted truth. Short stories, poems, paragraphs, brief essays, picture books-anything boiled down was more to my liking.
  • I had another year to go when I quit (high) school-but I felt I was getting dumber and dumber each term, and that it would be a waste of time to continue.
  • A good illustrator may draw from models but knows how to forget them.
  • I was to see more of the class struggle in the near future without knowing what it meant. Indeed, at that time, when I was 20 years old, I knew hardly anything except that I had a knack for drawing pictures and was pretty good at reciting selections from books of poetry.
  • Everything I read about the Chicago Anarchists in 1886 and 1887 and nearly everything I heard about them indicated that the accused men were guilty. The news reports of the case in the dailies were quite as biased against the defendants as were the editorials. Few who read the charges that some of them had advocated violence against the police realized that they were driven to that extreme by the wanton clubbing, shooting, and killing of workers by the police in the fight of the big industries against the eight-hour day movement.
  • I had brought along some reading matter-Harper's Weekly, the Daily Graphic, Judge, Puck, and Scribner's. As usual I went through their pages more than once-scanning the pictures first, then the text and the advertisements. The quality of the illustrations varied considerably, and they seemed much below the standard of the European draftsmen of the graphic arts-in social satire, political cartoons, and comics.
  • I made about ten drawings with a joke comment or dialogue for every one that I finished and sold. Thus I kept exercising my hand and eye.
  • The flaring hoop-skirt had had its day, but complete coverage was still the fashion, woman's form being left to one's imagination.
  • After a few weeks I decided to graduate myself to the life classes of Kenyon Cox and Carroll Beckwith on the floor above, and strangely enough, no one objected; I just walked in as if I belonged.
  • Inspiration from my youthful partial knowledge of Dore's work had carried me a long way. But now I was becoming acquainted with the political and social satires of other leading graphic artists in England and France-Hogarth, Rowlandson, John Leech, George Cruikshank, John Tenniel, Daumier, and Steinlen, and all of these held important and increasing values for me.
  • Journalism today is for the most part gentlemanly and decorous, in so far as the relations among newspapers in the big cities are concerned.
  • I continued to read Harper's Weekly, following the work of W. A. Rogers therein (Nast had severed his connection with that periodical a couple of years earlier) ; and watched Life, Judge, and Puck. The latter contained topical cartoons, and editorial comment with many pages of drawings to illustrate what are known today as gags. The cartoons by Joseph Keppler, Bernard Gillam, Frederick Opper, and Zim were leading features. Puck, too, was agitating for civic virtue, and for the sending of bribe-taking aldermen to Sing Sing. But it viewed the Single Tax movement as akin to anarchy; had fought Henry George and his co-worker, the heroic Catholic, Father Edward McGlynn, when the former ran for mayor; and attacked Greenbackism as spelling national ruin. Frequently it ridiculed the United States Senate as a servant of the moneyed interests.
  • Whatever the mixed social ideas I was thus absorbing, the lessons I gained from studying Keppler's drawings were valuable. He was less cumbersome than Nast, having that swing of line reminiscent of the early nineteenth century German draftsmen. Today, as one turns back to the pages of Puck in the years from 1870 to 1890, it will be seen that, though dated in subject, Keppler's pictures have an arresting quality of color and a spontaneity and layman. But for individuality, fun of something", Nast was pre-eminent.
  • Although I knew that art schools could not make artists, I enjoyed the environment and the thought that I had an aim in life.
  • Usually politics was my theme, varied now and then, on an off day, by some travesty on prevailing fads.
  • in 1933, fifty-three years after the sweeping defeat of this movement which had reaped so much editorial and oratorical abuse, its supposed evil nature had been forgotten, and Congress voted for the payment of government bonds in currency, one of the demands of the Greenback convention in 1880. And in the intervening years other planks in the Greenback platform had been embodied in government policies or had been generally approved in principle.
  • I have always been sensitive to competent oratory, and from that year to the present time have heard all kinds-most of it I would say, as one of Plutarch's noble Grecians or Romans put it, "tall and lofty like a cypress tree, but bearing no fruit."
  • It seems unbelievable at this distance that we assailed a candidate because he combed his hair the wrong way, but that is a part of the record of mud-slinging in American politics. And I was a participant on the front page of a leading newspaper (The Inter-Ocean).
  • In that autumn of 1892 the Inter-Ocean made its big forward step. It had installed the first color press in the country, and began to print a colored supplement with its Sunday issue. In this Nast and I were presently appearing with full-page pictures, and it was gratifying to see my name featured in advertisements with that of the artist I had admired so much in the dream-days back on the farm.
  • My world had grown small and shaky. I learned what ostracism means. Men and women whom I had counted as friends found it convenient to pass me on the street without speaking, or were brief and impersonal in their conversation. And often I felt that I was being pointed out as a treasonable being to be shunned as one would the plague.
    • While facing a lawsuit
  • The term "Wobbly", said to have been fastened on the I. W. W. members in derision by a Los Angeles editor, had been adopted by them with enthusiasm.
  • Editors of most of the magazines where I had long had entree also shied at my offerings. Sometimes they attempted to explain, but there was no need-it was obvious that they could not afford to continue using the work of one who was being prosecuted by the government on sedition charges. Thus I had difficulty in making a living. But there was one editor who stood by me-Jacob Marinoff, of the Big Stick, a Jewish humorous weekly, which also was under surveillance by the federal authorities.
  • One week-end during that trial I went up to Monroe to see my folks. They made me feel at home as always, doing everything possible to insure my comfort. But I noticed that greetings from some of my old acquaintances around town lacked the warmth of the past. They talked with me nervously and seemed to be in a hurry, as if they might be open to criticism if they were seen tarrying with one who had been accused of disloyalty to his country.
  • when I was a boy, and when he (my father) would say: "You've got to think things out for yourself."

Quotes about Art Young[edit]

  • Art Young drew a picture of a complacent cherub carrying a tiny pail of water dipped from the "Ocean of Truth." The pail was marked "Dogma," and my editorial read: "I publish this little picture in answer to numberless correspondents who want to know just what this magazine is trying to do.' It is trying not to try to empty the ocean, for one thing. And in a propaganda paper that alone is a task."
    • Max Eastman "The Policy of The Masses: An Editor's Reflections"
  • For a brief time, roughly between 1912 and 1918, The Masses became the rallying center-as sometimes also a combination of circus, nursery, and boxing ring-for almost everything that was then alive and irreverent in American culture. In its pages you could find brilliant artists and cartoonists, like John Sloan, Stuart Davis, and Art Young; one of the best journalists in our history, John Reed (journalist), a writer full of an indignation against American injustice that was itself utterly American; a shrewd and caustic propagandist like Max Eastman; some gifted writers of fiction, like Sherwood Anderson; and one of the few serious theoretical minds American socialism has produced, William English Walling. All joined in a rumpus of revolt, tearing to shreds the genteel tradition that had been dominant in American culture, poking fun at moral prudishness and literary timidity, mocking the deceits of bourgeois individualism, and preaching a peculiarly uncomplicated version of the class struggle. There has never been, and probably never will again be, another radical magazine in the U. S. quite like The Masses, with its slapdash gathering of energy, youth, hope.
    • Irving Howe Introduction to Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911-1917 by William L. O'Neill (1989)
  • As one looks back across the shambles of the intervening decades, it is hard not to envy them: the fierce young John Reed (journalist) making his prose into a lyric of revolt, the handsome young Max Eastman mediating among a raucus of opinions, the cherubic Art Young drawing his revolutionary cartoons with the other worldly aplomb of a Bronson Alcott. History cannot be recalled, but in this instance at least, nostalgia seems a part of realism. For who among us, if enabled by some feat of imagination, would not change places with the men of The Masses in their days of glory?
    • Irving Howe Introduction to Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911-1917 by William L. O'Neill (1989)
  • One explanation for the neglect of women's part in shaping The Masses and its content may lie in an image of the magazine constructed by its chroniclers. Indeed, the extent to which historians have neglected discussion of Masses women is quite remarkable. Daniel Aaron, in his Writers on the Left (1961), devotes some twenty pages to The Masses. He deals with Eastman, Dell, and Reed at considerable length, while mentioning the founding members Inez Haynes Irwin and Mary Heaton Vorse in a single line...More recent histories redress the balance somewhat-notably Judith Schwartz's study of women of the Greenwich Village Heterodoxy club, many of whose members had ties with The Masses, and Art for The Masses, Rebecca Zurier's 1987 anthology of the work of Masses artists. Nancy Cott's frequent allusions to Masses women in The Grounding of Modern Feminism (1987) indicate how very central to that grounding to the shaping of turn-of-the-century feminist discourse Masses women were. But in many imaginations, The Masses remains the project of Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Reed, Art Young, and Charles Winter.
    • Margaret C. Jones, Heretics and Hellraisers: Women Contributors to The Masses, 1911-1917 (1993)
  • All day, every day, the circles are in the Square, close packed huddles, voices rising and falling and rising again. "Did y' see Art Young's cartoon in The Masses? That one where two big cops are draggin' a little guy off to jail? One bystander says: "What's he been doin'?" and another guy says: "Overthrowin' the gov'ment." It's a scream!"
    • Rose Pesotta Bread upon the Waters (1945), about Union Circle on May 1, 1914
  • Only last year we lost the gay, faithful friend and comrade, Art Young, who "kept up with the procession," till the last moment of his life. The very night he died, last New Year's Eve, he mailed me a post card on which he wrote, "Dear Ella-It has been a long road but now I think we are getting somewhere." And then in a corner he put the word "Teheran," which means so much to us.
  • Even subsequent contact with blacks during a trip to Alabama and his growing social consciousness did little to alter Young's vision of southern blacks, who appeared to him happy-go-lucky primitives; he remained unaware of the hard lives behind their mask of joviality and insouciance.
    • Rebecca Zurier, Art for the Masses: A Radical Magazine and Its Graphics, 1911-1917 (1985)

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:

Cartooning Capitalism: Art Young