Aislin celebrates 50 years of cartooning with news exhibit at McCord Museum
Aislin celebrates 50 – It all started in 1967, with a cartoon that was published in the Montreal Star that poked fun at what was called the “Ballets Africains Affair”, in which the Montreal Police vice squad raided Place des Arts over a show that was deemed “immoral” because of the bare-breasted female performers who were part of the touring dance troupe. Fifty years and 12,000 published cartoons later, Terry Mosher (aka “Aislin”), has become one of the best known cartoonists in English Canadian history. His cartoons, which have appeared in countless publications but mainly within the pages of the Montreal Gazette, are known not only for its biting humour, but also how they offer that much-needed grain of truth and mirror on life in Montreal, Quebec and Canada, both politically and socially.
“Terry’s cartoons are funny, pointed, not infrequently controversial, and sets the political agenda for the province,” said Lucinda Chodan, the Gazette’s editor-in-chief and Terry’s current boss at the paper.
To commemorate Aislin’s golden anniversary of wielding his famous pointed pen, the McCord Museum has just launched an exhibition called “Aislin: 50 Years of Cartoons”, which will run at the museum until August 13. The exhibition contains 50 of Aislin’s cartoons and caricatures, which were carefully chosen from the McCord’s extensive editorial cartoon collection, which contains over 40,000 original cartoons.
The selected cartoons that are on display not only reflect Aislin’s evolution of his trademark illustrative style, but also reflect five different themes that were prevalent throughout his half-century of cartooning: “A Changing Society”, “Quebec and Canadian Politics”, “Montreal Mayors”, “First Ministers”, and “Montreal Life”.
The 50 cartoons that make up the exhibition are a cross section of some of his best known work (including the 1976 Rene Levesque “OK, everybody take a valium” cartoon) and specially commissioned caricatures (including a 2002 portrait of former U.S. President Bill Clinton that is autographed by Clinton himself), which are all accompanied with brief stories behind the cartoons, as well as more Aislin cartoons that are available for viewing on iPad screens, and a small theatre where you can screen four mini interviews with Aislin, as he discusses his cartooning methods, his cartooning career and more behind the drawing board stories.
As well, an impressive retrospective companion book called From Trudeau to Trudeau: Aislin – Fifty Years of Cartooning, was officially launched last week to coincide with the opening of the exhibition, and perfectly complements the McCord’s fitting tribute to this brilliant career in editorial cartooning.
As you look through the drawings in their original pen-and-ink state, you can’t help but to either chuckle or smile one more time, as you did when you viewed these cartoons for the first time when they originally appeared in print, whether it be for the Montreal Star, the Montreal Gazette, Maclean’s magazine, or the countless books where he contributed original drawings for.
During a special press conference and exhibition preview that took place at the museum on the morning of April 5, Aislin in his customary irrepressible sense of humour, offered some insights into his world as an editorial cartoonist.
“My favourite technique is to surprise people. And my biggest problem is not what to draw,” he said. “I can’t believe that my work as a cartoonist was good enough to have my own damned show in a museum!”
He also shared the reactions he got from some of the politicians he satirized throughout his 50 years in cartooning, including current Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, whom Aislin constantly portrays him as animated TV character Fred Flintstone. “Coderre does look like Fred Flintstone. They share that same frustrated look,” he said. “He doesn’t like it that much; in fact, he once told me ‘I’m no dinosaur,’ which means I’m going to continue to do it.”
As well, Aislin admits that next year, when he celebrates his 75th birthday, he will begin to scale back his cartooning output at the Gazette to one cartoon a week. For the other four days of the week, the editorial cartoon space will be filled by the works of three or four young cartoonists whom Aislin has mentored on a rotating basis. “I’ll let those other cartoonists fight for the space,” he jokingly added.