Little Note on a Wonderful Drawing

Thomas Nast, Tammany Tiger (circa 1870)

Nast was the creator of many iconic images and the first political cartoonist to hit hard.

This is from the Addison Gallery collection of drawings, and though we did not see it yesterday, I’m thrilled to have even a reproduction of it in the collection On Paper. (I can’t find any reproduction of it on the Interwebs.)

Nash’s brilliance is that he takes an otherwise un-humanized tiger and puts it in a human position: rolling on its back, arms folded across chest, legs kicking in the air and either roaring or laughing, doesn’t matter. The instant you see it’s called Tammany Tiger you understand it’s a caricature of a cruel, greedy, bestial human (Boss Tweed) given none of the dignity of being a person.

(Well, I should add, not a portrait of Tweed per se — he was a fat lump as uncatlike as could be imagined — but his corrupt organization.)