Monthly Archives: October 2014

Queasy Rider

Yet another iconic image from the cinema to illustrate one of today’s political stories. This time from the 1969 landmark counterculture film Easy Rider.

The Telegraph’s Christian Adams uses this iconic image from the film to highlight David Cameron’s panic and his lurch to the right in the face of UKIP’s perceived popularity .

Tuesday 21 October 2014. The Telegraph – Christian Adams/Dennis Hopper


Although there is very little narrative connection between the film and the political story, nonetheless it does adequately illustrate Cameron’s panicky pandering to the back-seat drivers for a more right-wing approach to immigration, and generally, all things Europe. In this case the back-seat driver is depicted as the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage.

After the defections from the Tories to UKIP, and the loss of a safe seat to one of those defectors, Cameron is scrabbling around looking to appease his party and his supporters before the next bye-election – and indeed before the General Election next May.

I do think that Adams has missed a trick in reworking the image. Just look at that tartan rug behind Nicholson (Farage) and Fonda (Cameron) in the image from the film. With the vote for Scottish Independence behind him Cameron now has another monkey on his back. Adams could have worked the Scottish allusion that into the cartoon. Still.



Director: Dennis Hopper,  Writers: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Terry Southern, Stars: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson. USA, Colour, 1969

Chris Walker.


Passive Sacrifice

I have dealt with the use of imagery from the cinema to illustrate political stories before in this blog and today we see another iconic image from a previously referenced film – The Seventh Seal.

The Independent’s Peter Schrank uses Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal to comment on the global threat that Ebola poses.

Sunday 19 October 2014. The Independent – Peter Schrank/Ingmar Bergman


In the film a disillusioned knight and his squire return after fighting in the Crusades and find Sweden being ravaged by the plague. On the beach immediately after their arrival the knight encounters Death and challenges him to a chess match, believing that he can forestall his demise as long as the game continues. Death agrees.

Whilst in the cartoon, Ebola is depicted as Death playing chess against someone, who could be representing Black Africa or Barack Obama (fighting in the Crusades?), who are clumsily knocking their chess pieces to the ground. In the background there is the depiction of Global Concern belatedly waking up as it reads the headline “Ebola cases in US and Spain” realising that it is not just poor Africa that is going to be affected.



Director: Ingmar Bergman,  Writer: Ingmar Bergman (Play), Ingmar Bergman (Screenplay), Stars: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot. Sweden, Black and White, 1957

Chris Walker.

The Ebola Tombola

Today not an Old Master, movie image or totemic icon but a re-worked image of a classical sculpture courtesy of Dave Brown in the Independent. Less political, more a commentary today.

Saturday 18 September. The Independent – Dave Brown/Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus.

President Barack Obama is being attacked by the Ebola virus whilst disease containment experts try to fight off the infection. It seems that safety measures to stop Ebola infecting the US have been inadequate or botched and Ebola has reached the country. The the fallout will harm an already stretched US administration. Whilst back in Ancient Greece…


Laocoön had begged the Trojans to set fire to the horse, that the Greeks had left, to ensure it was not a trick.  The Trojans ignored him and wheeled the great wooden Horse into the city. Laocoön did not give up trying to convince the Trojans to burn the horse, and Athena makes him pay. She sends two giant sea serpents to strangle and kill him and his two sons. In another version of the story, it was said that Poseidon sent the sea serpents to strangle and kill Laocoön and his two sons. The Greeks inside the horse take the City of Troy.

A twist to the imagery of the two subject matters is Laocoön was punished for essentially being right for arguing not to let the Trojan horse in and Obama argued against travel bans from West Africa after being wrongly advised by the Center for Disease Control about the dangers.



Attrib. Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus, between 27 BC and 68 AD – Marble, 208cm × 163cm x 112cm, Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Chris Walker.

First, Do No Harm.

Thank you Mr Rowson for your re-interpretation of a French Old Master to comment on one of today’s talking points in the news.

Martin Rowson’s biting political cartoons always have a wealth of detail both visual and referential. Today’s offering uses Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of Horatii to comment on Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt’s public pronouncement that teachers should take a public oath committing themselves to the values of their profession.

Monday 13 September 2014. The Guardian – Martin Rowson/Jacques-Louis David.

First a simplistic explanation of the symbolic meaning of the painting.

It depicts  the Roman Horatius family, who had been chosen for a ritual duel against members of a family from Alba Longa, in order to settle disputes between the Romans and the latter city. The painting shows the three brothers on the left and the Horatii father in the centre. The Horatii brothers are depicted swearing upon (saluting) their swords as they take their oath.  On the right, three familial women are weeping. The mother and sisters are shown melting into expressions of sorrow.



Jacques-Louis David, 1784 – Oil on Canvas, 129.8 cm × 167.2 cm, Louvre, Paris.

Monday 13 September 2014. The Guardian – Martin Rowson

Now my person interpretation of Martin Rowson’s reworking of the subject matter. My own interpretation because an interpretation can only be the act of explaining, reframing or making comprehensible something by showing your own understanding and by bringing personal experiences, insights and knowledge to the subject. And Rowson always tests the viewer with a multitude of referential pointers and comments. Let’s start with the title.

Martin Rowson 13.10.14

Here we have the word oath being used ambiguously. Can it mean, as Tristram Hunt would have, a solemn promise regarding one’s future action or behaviour or, as the teachers are probably thinking (and shown in the think-bubble in the body of the cartoon) a profane or offensive expression used to express anger or other strong emotions ?

The profanity in the think-bubble is another multi-referential device. If refers back to the second part of the title ‘Oath of the Half-Tory’, a play on words with Horatii, and the fact that Tristram Hunt is often ribbed about being in the Labour Party. He is percieved as coming from a very privileged background (his father is Baron Hunt of Chesterton, he is a Cambridge Graduate, he is cousin to Virginia Bottomly and he has the name Tristram). The teachers are using the phrase that David Cameron used to describe his own Conservative administration – “Effing Tories” whilst out campaigning. Hunt is also depicted in the pantomime ‘posh-boy’ regalia that George Osborne is often rendered in. The inference – is Hunt Tory-Lite?

There is much more to see in this cartoon.

The teachers can’t salute because they can’t raise their arms due to the burden of marking and other work they are carrying.

The Curriculum Cudgel and a Policy Bat instead of well honed swords for the fight.

A well thumbed copy of the Evangelist for Free Schools  (a misnomer if there ever was one) Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People lies on the floor next to Hunt.

A deflated Miliband lies seemingly squeezed by that snake Farage after the Heywood and Middleton bye-election.

And do I see a resemblance to a former Secretary of State for Education in what I will call a Govian helmet? Maybe.

Anyway a well rendered political comment referencing back to an historical painting. At the time revolution in France was looming, paintings urging loyalty to the state were numerous and the Oath of the Horatii became one of the defining images of the time.

Chris Walker.


“I know my place”

In previous entries I have discussed the reuse of Fine Art and Cinema imagery by modern political cartoonists. Well today I can expand the use of iconic images to television and magazine photomontages. We are still in deep Tory party conference mode and also reference a big news story about a hugely controversial company having to admit wrong doing and writing off several hundreds of millions of pounds.

Friday 03 October 2014. The Telegraph – Christian Adams.


David Cameron’s speech was based around his promise of (currently unfunded) tax cuts, whilst George Osborne was  freezing ‘working-age’ welfare payments to the poorest and withdrawing it all together from 18-21 year-olds. This really show Cameron’s and the Tory ideology and in this lurch to the right shows that he is scared of the perceived threat from UKIP. He seems to have forgotten what he said on The Andrew Marr Show, May 2nd 2010:-

I want to, if I’m elected, take the whole country with me. I don’t want to leave anyone behind. The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times.




Writers: Marty Feldman and John Law Stars: John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett. First Broadcast: Television, UK, Black and White, 7th April 1966.

Friday 3rd October 2014. The Guardian – Steve Bell

Steve Bell 03.10.2014

 Steve Bell’s contribution acknowledges Heartfield in his depiction of Cameron and ties to a controversial loan company who was found out by the financial regulator. Bell morphs the Wonga-Logo

logo into a loan shark and I think the link between Wonga, payments from that company, and closely linked Adrian Beecroft, to the Tory party and what they were expecting from Cameron is pretty obvious.

Bell has taken this image from one of John Heartfield’s political photomontages published in Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung. This workers’ newspaper cleverly used deceptively realistic montages cheek-by-jowl with straight documentary photographs, many of which savagely satirized the Nazi regime,.

Here, Heartfield specifically links Hitler’s electoral success with his courting of wealthy industrialists and businessmen. He and Bell gives pictorial representation to the  idea that money fuels political power and whilst Heartfield specifically links the Nazi salute to a plea for cash, Bell highlights the belief that Cameron is in the pocket of business and if they don’t get their way funding will cease.



The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little man asks for big gifts.
Motto: Millions Stand Behind Me!

John Heartfield, 1932 – (German, 1891–1968), Rotogravure, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Chris Walker.