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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Marie Duval: Laughter in the First Age of Leisure


Society of Illustrators / New York / Art

This small gem of a show is devoted to Marie Duval, a French-born cartoonist active in Victorian London. She had a wonderfully creative, untutored style—the exhibit credits her with inventing motion lines, among other contributions to the art form—so of course she has largely been forgotten, that being what tends to happen to pioneering artists who also are women. In fairness, the fact that most 150-year-old cartoons just aren’t funny anymore may also be to blame (here’s a dollar if you can name a 19th-century cartoonist who is not Honoré Daumier or Thomas Nast). But while you may not “get” Duval’s jokes, you’ll appreciate her visual wit and proto-modern boldness. Some of her pages are as antic and crowded as an early Mad magazine panel; some of her characters are drawn so loosey-goosey you’d think they were the rubbery stars of a 1930s “Looney Tune.” James Thurber might owe her something too. —Bruce Handy

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