I’m Gerald Scarfe. I’m a caricaturist, cartoonist, and I’m at the Tate Britain, and I’m just about to start work on a picture by Gillray for an exhibition called ‘Rude Britannia’. Gillray was a brilliant eighteenth century artist who satirised the world around him.
This particular one is called The giant-factotum amusing himself, and it shows the Prime Minister, Pitt, at the time the youngest prime minister ever, with his pockets stuffed with gold coins, and money, and bills and so forth. And it really is about money needed from the populace for supporting the war at the time. And he has shown it in this very symbolic way. And Pitt here is also balancing the world, and down below here are the people kissing his shoes, and a Scotsman here he’s sort of standing on. There’s his great rival in parliament, Fox, lying on the floor with Pitt’s shoe firmly on his stomach. And I decided to use this one to put on the wall for the simple reason that his legs, in that position, made a very good doorway, and also there are a lot of Gillray drawings in the gallery here, and so it seemed a good way of reflecting that.
I’m painting it in ordinary house paint, just straightforward house paint, and using very ordinary brushes. So it’s very immediate, but I will hopefully work into that now, put some more detail later. I’ve been painting all day today with my son Alexander, and it’s now about five o’clock, and we still haven’t got finished, so I’m going to have to come back. Is cartoon satire still relevant? Well, I think it is, yes. I mean, our leaders always should be questioned. I mean, they are very arrogant people, and set themselves up to say that they know the way we should go, and we all follow like sheep – although not everybody does, and I think it helps to have people giving an opposite point of view, and saying, you know, you may not be as great as you think you are. And that’s really been the traditional role of the caricaturist over the ages, ever since Hogarth – to be able to criticise and look at those in power and call them to account in drawings. I’m not sure it does any good, because not many politicians are going to pay attention to a cartoon, but a cartoon can prove to be a rallying point around which people gather, and say, ‘That’s exactly my point of view.’ And it gives them sustenance, to feel that there are others who feel the way that they do.
I’m going to have some tables in here where I show people on the tables how to draw cartoons, how to draw David Cameron, how to draw Obama, and they have pencils and pens, and they can have a go. And then they can post it in the box, and there’s a sort of competition to see who does the best.
The great thing about cartoons, is you are able to say in a funny and humorous way what is quite complicated, sometimes, to explain in words. Well, the difference between working in print and in the gallery, I suppose, is that in print… I work in the Sunday Times, and people, I think there’s a million and a half people see the Sunday Times – possibly more, because they’ve passed it around. But it only lasts for a day, really. Here, if you put something in a gallery, it lasts for a much longer time. This show runs for three months, I think, so you’ll be able to look at things and revisit, come back and see them still here. And the great thing about a gallery, of course, also, is that you can compare one work with another and you can see a whole range of works right the way from the early Hogarth through to modern day works, all dealing with comic art. We in Britain have this wonderful ‘carry-on’ attitude to humour. It’s all sort of bums and boobs, and there’s a lot of that in this show. I’m sure people will enjoy it, it’s got so much to laugh at and some really bitter comments, as well, here.