Thomas Nast1840 - 1902
Born: September 27, 1840, Landau, Germany
Died: December 7, 1902, Guayaquil, Ecuador
A famous caricaturist of the nineteenth century, Thomas Nast is considered the father of American political cartooning. At age six, he emigrated with his family from Germany to the United States. He studied with Alfred Fredericks and Thoedore Kaufmann in New York and briefly attended the National Academy of Design. Throughout his career as a draftsman and cartoonist, he drew for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Harper's Weekly, New York Illustrated News, and Illustrated London News. Nast's work covered serious political and social issues, especially during the Civil War when President Lincoln described Nast as "the Union's best recruiting sergeant." From 1869 to 1871, he relentlessly attacked corrupt politicians in New York with his cartoons, spurring a public campaign that broke the Boss Tweed Ring conspiracy. By the 1880s, Nast's popularity as a cartoonist had declined, and he turned his attention to painting and illustration. He also published a book titled Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race. In 1902, Nast served as an emissary to Ecuador but died six months later from an outbreak of yellow fever.
Nast is responsible for developing and popularizing a classic version of Santa Claus, the Republican Party elephant, the Democratic Party Donkey, Uncle Sam, and others. He was extremely creative in using animals as metaphors for political figures and social groups in his cartoons. In his early work, each image contained several incidents or themes. However, by 1870, Nast's mature style was fully developed, and his depictions focused on a single powerful image. "Incisive lines reinforced the pointed wit of his subject-matter, and bold images translated more effectively into wood-engraving."
(Source: Bryant, Edward. "Nast, Thomas," Grove Art Online [Accessed 13 June 2006], http://www.groveart.com/shared/views/article.htmlsection=art.061093.