1 of 6
  • Romeyn after De Hooghe Arlequin sur l Hypographe a la Criosade Lojoliste1689

    Romeyn, after De Hooghe
    Arlequin sur l’Hypographe à la Criosade Lojoliste 1689

    British Museum, London

  • John Tenniel Illustrations to Through the Looking Glass and What Alice found there The Walrus the Carpenter and the Oysters 1872

    John Tenniel
    Illustrations to ‘Through the Looking Glass and What Alice found there’: The Walrus, the Carpenter and the Oysters 1872

    Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Angus Fairhurst The Problem with Banana Skins Divided Inverted  1998 sculpture of a banana skin

    Angus Fairhurst
    The Problem with Banana Skins Divided / Inverted 1998

    © The Estate of Angus Fairhurst, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

  • David Shrigley Im dead 2007 stuffed cat standing on its hinde legs holding a sign saying im dead

    David Shrigley
    I’m Dead 2007

    David Roberts Collection, London
    © courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London Photo: Stephen White

  • Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson Death to the Fascist Fruit Boys 2010 two male cartoon figures with fruit and vegetables for heads and hands are attacking a cone of chips which has a face, legs

    Shaun Doyle & Mally Mallinson
    Death to the Fascist Fruit Boys 2010

    © Doyle and Mallinson

  • Spirit Flask 1800 carved or moulded drinking flask in the shape of a human head

    Spirit Flask c.1800

    Royal Pavilion Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘absurd’ reads ‘Out of harmony with reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical … plainly opposed to reason, and hence, ridiculous, silly’.

Much comic art since the seventeenth century could be in fact classed as absurd, involving disconcerting dislocations of scale, the humanisation of inanimate objects and animals, and baffling uselessness. Rather than adding up to a coherent British tradition of absurdist humour, the works brought together here may suggest the rich variety of absurd comic art – mixed with elements of melancholy and regret.

Harry Hill has been our guest curator in this space, and has added some of his own special touches to the installation.