|Lieberman's favorite work by Toles (not exhibited)|
Randy Liebermann purchased a collection of Elmira, New York cartoonist Claude E. Toles a few years ago. A selection of the material is now on display at the Cosmos Club, which is only open to members and their guests. He kindly showed the exhibit to me last weekend and has agreed to let us feature it here.
Toles is barely known today. He worked for about 10 years from 1891-1901, before dying at age 26 of Bright's disease (ie kidney failure). In that time, he was stunningly prolific, doing over 6000 drawings, or 600 / year, or about 2 / day. Very few of these seem to have survived. The best source for information on Toles is John Adcock's article, A Remarkable Collection: C. E. Toles (1875-1901), and this link will take you to all of Adcock's articles on Toles, and more pictures. Alex Jay also did a fine job digging around on Tole's life, and Allan Holtz has another example on the same site. Liebermann had all of the pieces in this exhibit conserved, and they look very good indeed. The Library of Congress has a piece, described here.
The Cosmos Club's Art Committee chose Deja vu All Over Again: The Art of Claude E. Toles as the exhibit title because they felt that many of the political situations seen in Toles' 115-year-old cartoons were recurring now. Here's their exhibit text and Toles' editorial cartoons for the Elmira Telegram.
The first image a visitor sees is this one of a man who's too poor to have his shoes shined.
President Grover Cleveland and Congress were at odds over
his Supreme Court nominees as the next four cartoons show.
|"David's Hornblower a Blasting Hoister for Grover's" depicts a modified Edison talking machine.|
|The President was at odds with Congress over his Supreme Court nominees.|
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats were looking very good to voters.
|Despair - Liebermann noted that there was a depression from 1893-1897 but no social net.|
Liebermann usually collects material on technology, and Uncle Sam grasping this wet cell battery shows the electric shock of racism over the annexation of Hawaii.
|Toles drew Congress as lost in a snowstorm|
|A standard end of year cartoon for 1893.|
Like any other working cartoonist, Toles did a wide variety of work including sheet music,
|original art, with tear sheet in lower right|
|tearsheet with 19th century style joke|
magazine mastheads (Twain also lived in Elmira),
proto-comic strip pages,
...and illustration work which doubled as social commentary.
|"A Varsity Crew. As It Isn't" ca. 1899. Women didn't row in college|
|His rowers were definitely influenced by Charles Dana Gibson's Gibson Girls...|
|But his babies preceded Rose O'Neill's Kewpies by a few years...|
|And what this art nouveau fairy coxswain means is anyone's guess.|
|The only known photograph of Toles|
Besides being very prolific, and short-lived, Toles may confuse historians due to his multiple signatures...
...which he definitely did on purpose when he moved to Baltimore to set up The International Syndicate which would sell stock images to a newspaper or magazine.
Toles drew most, if not all of the cartoons and illustrations in this book, but signed a variety of names to cartoons of different styles as demonstrated in his scrapbook, which Liebermann brought in for us to see.
|Photo by RL|
Finally, one last piece also not in the exhibit is this unsigned painting, which Liebermann had extensively conserved. Randy thinks it's a one-off piece; I think it shows that Toles was considering moving into the newly-enlarged illustration market which was about to enter its golden age.