Drawing the Country's Mood

Danziger, Jeff
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p42
This article relates a story on highlighting the ability of cartoons to capture emotions deeper that words can. My story takes place on the day in 1963 that John Kennedy was shot. Mauldin was working at the Chicago Sun Times. As the reporters and editors stood in stunned silence, watching the initial reports from Dallas. Mauldin, as shocked as any one of them, turned away from the broadcast and headed for his office and drawing table. A staff member. Kay Fanning, who later hired me at The Christian Science Monitor, told me this. Mauldin was in the mold of cartoonists of his day in that he was first an artist. He had studied anatomy, physiognomy, light and shadow, architecture and perspective. He had what is now called formal art training. He had never developed a distinctive stylistic cartoon shorthand. He was simply good at drawing. But like most artists he needed a model. He often used himself, with the recently developed Polaroid instant cameras. The cartoon he planned to draw on that black day has since become famous for its evocation of the national mood of shock and grief He planned to draw Lincoln, seated in the throne at the Lincoln Memorial, slumped in loss, his head bent forward into his hand. Mauldin moved his office chair in front of his Land camera and tripod, set the self-timer, and posed himself in the somber mood he felt.


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