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24 September 2014
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Exhibition celebrates the 20th Century's greatest cartoonist

A free exhibition celebrating the work of Sir David Low, whose distinctive cartoons provide a unique record and commentary on British and international politics for some of the most crucial decades of the 20th Century, is being held at Westminster Hall for six months from May.

Low: the 20th Century's Greatest Cartoonist, is being staged in the hall - in the news so much recently following the death of the Queen Mother - from 9 May until 31 October, jointly organised by the Political Cartoon Society and BBC History Magazine, which is sponsoring the event.

The exhibition consists of 110 of Low's finest original cartoons, caricatures and illustrations - including many on public display for the first time - as well as work by today's leading cartoonists, showing Low's continuing influence.

Including events ranging from the Second World War and subsequent Cold War to the Abdication of Edward VIII and the present Queen's Coronation, the exhibition covers the period from the end of the Lloyd George coalition government in 1922 to Edward Heath's attempts to negotiate Britain's entry into the EEC on behalf of the Macmillan government in the early 1960s.

Highlights include the classic image, `All behind you, Winston', drawn the week Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940 and the only cartoon Clement Attlee (a member of the wartime government and Labour prime minister from 1945-51) ever requested from a cartoonist. One of the first cartoons used by the British press to attack colour discrimination will also be on display: Low's response to Learie Constantine, the great West Indian cricketer, being refused entry in 1943 to a London hotel where white US officers, some from southern states, were staying.

Low demanded editorial freedom and independence from the proprietors of those newspapers he worked for, and was no stranger to controversy. His character Colonel Blimp, became a byword - even a dictionary definition - for a particular brand of reactionary, and inspired a wartime film that was nearly banned; while his characterisation of the trade union 'carthorse' was equally controversial. Nor did he stick to domestic issues. Low was an implacable opponent of the dictators of the 1930s - Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin - and British efforts to appease them. Hitler particularly objected to Low's work, and the cartoonist was one of those Britons whose names were included in a Nazi death-list. Low also commented pungently on the moves for independence in India in the 1930s and among the African nations from the 1950s onwards. Widely syndicated in his day, Low's cartoons now feature among many A-Level study texts.

A section of the exhibition will be devoted to 20 of Low's pencil portraits of leading politicians, most of which appeared in the New Statesman during the 1920s and 30s, and another of the highlights will be the chance to watch political commentator Robert Mackenzie's 1957 television interview with Low.

Greg Neale, Editor of BBC History Magazine, which is publishing a special supplement on Low and the Press with its May issue (on sale 23 April), as well as the official exhibition catalogue, said: "Far from being ephemeral items, the work of the great cartoonists - and the newspapers they first appeared in - helped make history, and have themselves become historically important. Few if any cartoonists have captured the mood of their day or interpreted its political events as effectively as David Low, whose work remains so instantly recognisable and whose influence has been so enduring.

"This will be an important exhibition for anyone wanting to know more about the episodes that shaped the Twentieth century, as well as a celebration of Low, the art of the cartoon and the importance of our Press. BBC History Magazine is very proud to sponsor this exhibition, and very grateful to the many members and officials at the Palace of Westminster, as well as cartoon donors, who have helped make it possible."

Says Tony Banks MP, who chairs of the House of Commons Advisory Committee on Works of Art: "In Westminster Hall we can trace the very routes of parliamentary democracy. David Low did more than most to alert the nation to the threat against that same democracy from Facism and Nazism. A more appropriate location for an exhibition of his work is hard to imagine."
Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to savour the rich history of the massive Westminster Hall, originally built between 1097 and 1099 for Willliam Rufus, and transformed by Richard II in the late 14th century into one of the country's finest Perpendicular Gothic structures. It has been the location of momentous events, such as the trials of Charles I, Sir Thomas More and Guy Fawkes; and the lying in state of members of the Royal family (most recently Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) and two notable commoners, William Gladstone and Winston Churchill.

Opening Times
9th May to 2nd Aug 9am to 1pm Mon to Thurs; 9am to 5pm Fri
3rd Aug to 28th Sept 9am to 6pm Mon to Sat; 9am to 6pm Sun 22nd Sept
1st Oct to 31st Oct 9am to 1pm Mon to Thurs; 9am to 5pm Friday

Notes to editors:
Low: the 20th Century's Greatest Cartoonist is held in Westminster Hall by kind permission of the Speaker, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Great Chamberlain. BBC History Magazine also wishes to acknowledge the kind support of the House of Commons Advisory Committee on Works of Art, chaired by Tony Banks MP, and the House of Lords Advisory Panel on Works of Art, chaired by Baroness Hilton of Eggardon.

BBC History Magazine is published by BBC Magazines: a division of BBC Worldwide Ltd, the main commercial arm of the BBC. Launched in August 2000, the magazine has an official circulation of 50,082 (ABC: Jul to Dec 2001).

The Political Cartoon Society is an organisation for those interested in history and politics through the medium of cartoons.



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