Tag Archives: Martin Rowson

Angels One Five Descend on Aleppo

Today we have a cartoon referencing a cartoon.

Saturday 17th December. Guardian– Martin Rowson/ David Low



David Low, 1940 – Indian ink and black chalk, with erasures in body colour , (38.5cm x 49.5cm). The Tate Collection.

David Low’s cartoon was published in the Evening Standard ,10th June 1940. It was a reference to the German occupation of the Low Countries in the Summer of 1940. Himmler, carrying a book entitled ‘Gestapo Death List’ is accompanied by two other members of the SS carrying a whip and a truncheon.


In Martin Rowsons reinterpretation of the work, Obama is asking Putin “What the hell have you done?” (Putin holding the reins on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, for now just out of the picture, President Elect Donald Trump)  This remark seems to be both in reference  to the complicity in bombing civilians and hospitals in Aleppo with reports of women and children being massacred and also referencing reports coming from the the CIA and FBI that Putin was also directly responsible for interfering in the presidential election with the goal of supporting Republican candidate Donald Trump.

President Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry rebuked the Russian and Iranian backed Syrian regime for carrying out “nothing short of a massacre” in Aleppo, as tens of thousands of civilians were held in the recent siege of the rebel stronghold. Reports of women and children being executed in the streets came out of the beleagured city by verifiable sources.

Mr Kerry called for an “immediate, verifiable, and durable cessation of hostilities” and urged both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian leaders to participate in direct negotiations with the United Nations in Geneva.

“There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for the indiscriminate and savage brutality against civilians shows by the regime and by its Russian and Iranian allies over the past few weeks and, indeed, over the past five years,” he said at a press briefing.

President Barack Obama is also promising that the U.S. will retaliate against Russia for its suspected meddling in America’s election process.

As the White House grew more bullish about suggesting President Vladimir Putin was personally involved, Obama said he’d spoken directly to Putin about his concerns about Russian meddling. He said whenever a foreign government tries to interfere in U.S. elections, the nation must take action “and we will at a time and place of our own choosing.”

Chris Walker.

Who Wears the Trousers?

I am expanding this ‘cartoons referencing art’ theme further to include literary works. Today it is a cartoon by Martin Rowson referencing the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Monday 12th December 2016. The Guardian  – Martin Rowson/ Percy Bysshe Shelley


A fair copy draft (c. 1817) of Shelley’s “Ozymandias” in the collection of Oxford’s Bodleian Library


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – first published in the 11th  January 1818 issue of The Examiner, London.

The central theme of the poem is exploring the arrogance of leaders and contrasting the inevitable decline of all of them and of the empires they build with their pretensions to greatness.

Ozymandias was a Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. Shelley began writing his poem in 1817, soon after the announcement of the British Museum’s acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the thirteenth century BC. The sonnet paraphrases the inscription on the base of the statue, given by Diodorus Siculus in his Bibliotheca historica, as “”King of Kings am I, Osymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.” In the poem Diodorus becomes “a traveller from an antique land”


In Martin Rowson’s cartoon we can see that “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone, Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies” – obviously representing Prime Minister, Theresa May. The main story behind this is the exclusion of Nicky Morgan from a private meeting with the Prime Minister after she  had made comments about the PM wearing a pair of £995 leather trousers for a photo shoot.

This was after an extraordinary text spat with Mrs May’s joint chief of staff Fiona Hill. Hill ripped up Morgan’s No 10 invitation after the MP publicly criticised the said trousers.

The clash came after Hill met Morgan and Tory pro-European  Alistair Burt at No 10 and invited them to put their case to the PM this week. But after reading Morgan’s comments about May’s trousers, a furious Hill texted Burt: ‘Don’t bring that woman to Downing Street again.’

Morgan texted back: ‘If you don’t like something I have said or done, please tell me directly. No man brings me to any meeting. Your team invites me. If you don’t want my views in future meetings you need to tell them.’

Hill then texted to Morgan: ‘Well, he just did. So there!’ – believed to be a reference to Burt having taken her to the previous meeting.

Three days later, No 10 told Morgan formally her name had been axed from the list of MPs invited to see May;

One Tory MP said: ‘For Downing Street to ban Nicky from the meeting just because she made a mild remark about the PM’s trousers is appalling, absurd and will backfire.

‘Some people in No 10 are acting like a medieval monarch’s courtiers, not responsible civil servants in a modern democracy.

Another told The Guardian: ‘Disinviting Nicky because of a comment on the Prime Minister’s trousers is frankly playground politics.’

Mrs Morgan has been an outspoken critic of the Government after being sacked from her Cabinet position when Mrs May’s took over at Number 10.

The cartoon shows Nicky Morgan walking away flicking two fingers to May while, in reference to the Boris’ “proxy wars” controversy, the foot of the demolished statue is stamping down on him.

Mind you she is known for being a “Bloody difficult woman”. But is she, as some Tory critics think, getting too big for her kitten-heel boots?

Chris Walker.

OMG – Oh! May! God!

Today I post Martin Rowson’s re-intereptation of Michelangelo’s iconic image of “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – with a few comments on the story that inspired the work.

Wednesday 30th November. Tribune (Friday) – Martin Rowson/ Michelangelo


Theresa May has described how her faith in God makes her convinced she is “doing the right thing” as Prime Minister.

This week Theresa May gave one of her (thankfully) rare interviews to the Sunday Times. The above art referencing cartoon is Martin Rowson’s inimitable take on her claim that her faith in God is her driving force.

The comments were made as Ms May admitted to The Sunday Times that it was the “hugely challenging” task of Brexit which left her with little time for sleep.

The Christian Post goes further and says “May added that her faith in God shows her she’s “doing the right thing” as the U.K.’s leader, and is how she copes with what she called the “hugely challenging” task of negotiating Brexit.

Can anyone imagine how the Press, and a great deal of the public, would react if Sadiq Khan said he was going to ask Allah where to put London’s new runway?

To be fair to Theresa May, she could have been misquoted. Maybe the reporter said “Just what is the plan for Brexit?” and she said, “God knows”.



Michelangelo, c.1512, Fresco, 280cm x 570cm, Sistine Chapel ceiling, The Vatican.

Well done Martin, I think you’ve caught the spirit.

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.