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Take a walk on the light side

Museum curator Daniel Bolsinger

(Keystone)

"Need to laugh? - Basel has just the place for you..." is how the city's Caricature and Cartoon Museum introduces itself in the brochure for an exhibition to mark its 20th anniversary.

For the past two decades the museum has indeed been the source of countless smiles and frequent laughter, thanks to a permanent collection of over 3,000 original drawings by cartoonists throughout the world. Its birthday exhibition features 200 of them by leading artists of their day.

The word "art" is appropriate to describe the works on display because they reveal high standards of draughtsmanship which could only have been attained by true artists. "Cartoons as we know them today only began developing as an art form in the 19th century," says the museum's curator, Daniel Bolsinger.

"But the caricature goes back to antiquity, for instance there are Roman murals in Pompeii with drawings which are jokes about politicians of the time."

In the current exhibition, cartoons from such magazines as "The New Yorker", "Punch" and their Swiss equivalent "Nebelspalter" are the point of departure for a journey through different styles, periods and approaches to humour. For example it shows how the Anglo-Saxon sense of (black) humour differs from that of other countries.

Drawings by Ronald Searle, Chas Addams and Saul Steinberg are included in the exhibition, which ends on November 5.

by Richard Dawson

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