Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Giles Ahoy!

Last winter, I paid a couple of visits to the Cartoon Museum in London to see their fabulous exhibition of Carl Giles artwork (see my original review here). I don't mind telling you that I was quite sad when it finished... I quite liked the idea of it just 'being there', where I could pop in for a top-up whenever I needed. As a result, I now find myself keeping a watchful eye on the The British Cartoon Archive's website (for 'tis they who now look after the entire collection of Giles' original art), just in case another exhibition is announced. Well it paid off when I recently spotted the launch of 'Giles Ahoy' in Herne Bay, Kent (1st August - 26th September 2009), and last Friday we got the opportunity to visit it.

The British Cartoon Archive have now completed their mammoth task of digitising and cataloguing every piece of Giles artwork in their trust (almost 8500 cartoons and sketches). Pop along to their website and you can now view just about everything the great man ever drew, all in chronological order. And it's even better than that... you can use their search facility to find Giles cartoons relating to any particular story, person or theme you fancy... Want to see every one of his 'football' related cartoons? (there's 159 of 'em!), all 121 cricket related drawings perhaps? or how about the 69 that relate to aircraft??!! Just type in what you are looking for and their archive does the rest. And that's exactly what the Herne Bay Museum and Gallery did to create their exhibition which, as the name suggests, is a collection of all things nautical. They found a total of 93 related cartoons, and put the selection to the local community to vote on. What's on display are the winners, the original artwork for around 15-20 pieces. You might think that with a relatively small number of items on display, you'd be in and out in 10 minutes... not so! As with the London event, we found ourselves pouring over each piece for ages. Giles used to cram such an amazing amount of detail into his cartoons, that you can spend an age picking out all the hidden gems. Seeing the original art (in much magnified size in comparison to the printed version) enables you to really enjoy his work to its full potential. Add to all this a collection of personal photos of Giles on board his own boat and you've got a really interesting display.

I was also delighted to see the carved statues of the Giles 'family' once again. I was really taken with these when I saw them at the London event. As I recall, the carved 'Baby George' was placed on top of Giles' coffin at his funeral.

The icing on the cake (and the reason for choosing this particular day to visit the museum) was a thoroughly interesting talk by Nick Hiley from The British Cartoon Archive. He gave a wonderful overview of Giles' life and oozed warmth and affection for the man throughout. Nick wrote an excellent book about Giles, 'One of the Family' to coinside with the London exhibition, and it is a great read (and packed with rarities that I've never seen published anywhere else). I was delighted to get a chance to chat with Nick after his talk too.

All in all a very successful trip!


If you happen to find yourself that way between now and 26th September, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Herne Bay Museum and Gallery (it's even free entry!).

Find out all about the great work that The British Cartoon Archive is doing with the Giles collection over at their website.


Have a go at their Giles cartoon search engine here!


view the original 93 'nautical' cartoons that this exhibition was chosen from here!

Buy Nick Hiley's fabulous 'One of the Family' book here! (Note: very small print run, get it while you can!)



The Wolfmen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Whit said...

Piley, as you know, I'm a great admirer of Giles and hope I can find the time to visit this exhibition.

I didn't know about this searchable cartoon archive and will check it out later this evening. This archive is an amazing achievement by all concerned and will hopefully keep all of Giles' work in the public eye for decades to come. Now that Giles is no longer with us it is more important than ever for people to be able to discover his work.

Well done for another great blog.

Mondo said...

We touched on this on the during the podcast didn't we - glad you got away with the trip.

I still haven't explored Giles,
I've got a blindspot about where he fits in to the scheme of illustration. Worse still I only work ten minutes from the Cartoon Museum and haven't visited yet..

Cocktails said...

Well, thanks to you Piley I wasted away a good half an hour in the Giles Archive last night - that is some site (and I don't even really like cartoons that much!) Top tip!

Piley said...

Dave - thanks... The searchable archive is amazing! you can easily waste a few hours on there thinking up words to check out! Hope you manage to visit the exhibition.

Mondo - Giles is at odds with most of the cartoon artist we know and love, because Giles's work was for newspapers rather than comics. BUT... he is without doubt the most important British cartoonist. He was drawing in the Express for very nearly 50 years... his cartoons are social document of our history during that time. He picked up on everything... and look how much we changed from the 40's to the 90's!! He documented it all with his incredible drawings. He stuff is still funny (although some are perhaps lost now, as the topical stories that some relate to are long forgotten), but the beauty is in the artwork..

Cocktail - I'm delighted you enjoyed the archive! I realise I didn't really say much about Giles himself in this post - I did all that in the last one, but as I mentioned to Mondo above, this guys work is now a history of Britain... really important stuff. Chuffed that you enjoed some of his work.


Istvanski said...

I'll have to pay this place a visit - I love Larson (Evening Standard), very silly and leftfield.

Anonymous said...

I love Giles and enjoyed your last piece on him. I'm looking forward to checking the site out. The detail and humor he put in was brilliant , i've loved his stuff since i was a small child. Brilliant.


Piley said...

Ist - Worth a visit if you are that way, for sure. The Cartoon Museum in London is also well worth a look... keep an eye on their websire, I can imagine them doing a Larson exhibition.

Carl - thanks. That on-line archive is an amazing achievement. When you think of the amount of time Giles was cartooning, and how many pieces he created.... incredible that it's all now catalogued and on-line. Like Dave Whit earler, I truly hope this on-line archive will ensure that he and his work is remembered for many years to come. Do give the archive a go - it's brilliant! you can simply click through his cartoons in order or search for specifics... and it's all FREE too! They have built in a nice 'zoom' feature too, so you can get up nice and close to see all those wonderful bits that he used to sneak in! Hope you enjoy it Carl.


Martin said...

Have to admit, when it comes to cartoons it was always Andy Capp for me. I was vaguely aware of the Giles cartoons but could claim to be a follower. However, I'm looking forward to getting on the site and checking out all the stuff I've missed out on. It seems to be a great tribute to the man and his work that someone has gone to all that time and trouble to keep his work in the public eye.

Piley said...

Thanks Martin - well worth an on-line view. Search for his Annual covers perhaps, as these are just a joy to look at, and do not rely on any news stories to be able to enjoy them. I can look at them for hours! Hope you like it - let me know!


Furtheron said...

I must try to pop in on the way home at some point - ta

Piley said...

Hope you make it Furtheron - do please let me know how you got on if you do get there.