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David Kunzle on Töpffer and Cham: the amateur and the professional

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The New York Comics & Picture-story Symposium Presents:

David Kunzle on Töpffer and Cham: the amateur and the professional.

Two caricaturists dominate the emerging field of the French comic strip from the 1830s onward: the Genevan Rodolphe Töpffer and the Parisian  Cham (pseud. Count Amédée de Noé). The undisputed father of the modern comic strip or graphic novel, Töpffer always pretended to denigrate his “little follies,” as he called them, among other disparaging terms, and which he executed in spare corners of his life as director of a boys’ school and university professor. Cham, by contrast, inspired by and at one point collaborator with the Swiss, quickly became a dominant figure in the French premier magazine of graphic satire, Le Charivari. He engaged full-time  in all the major caricature formats then practiced, including close to 40 comic strips or graphic novelettes, published in albums and magazine instalments. They represent a fine contrast in their lives, graphic style and satirical reach.

David Kunzle was born Birmingham England in 1936 and educated at universities of Cambridge and London (PhD 1964, in art history). British Universities Combined Events Olympic Gymnastics champion 1961 and 1962. This taught him to hang on, a life-lesson.  Member of British Universities Gymnastics team at first International Student Gymnastics championship, Moscow 1959.

Official Lecturer National Gallery, London 1962-64. University of Toronto 1964-65,  University of California, Santa Barbara 1965-73 (fired). AFT-supported lawsuit  against UC Regents, alleging wrongful dismissal for protesting Viet Nam war, drags on 1973-77 until rehiring at UCLA 1977.
Viet Nam war inspires beginning of poster collection from 1965.  Organized first exhibition of US posters of Protest in Italy 1968, in US 1971 (UCSB, then New School, New York), subsequently travelled UK, Italy and France and Cuba (1973). Sporadic vandalism and theft enhanced his motivation to give entire collection to the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles. Professed History of Art at UCLA from 1977 until retirement 2010 at rank of Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

Kunzle has written about 135 articles and 12 books in realms (mostly) of popular, public and revolutionary (anti-imperialist) art, including several books on the History of Comic Strip, large and small; Fashion and Fetishism (Chinese ed. pending); From Criminal to Courtier, the Soldier in Netherlandish Art 1550-1672 Murals of Revolutionary Nicaragua 1979-90); Che Guevara, Icon Myth and Message (1997). Recent books are on the Father of the Comic Strip, Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846, two vols ), Gustave Doré, Twelve Comic Strips, and the large well-illustrated Chesucristo: the Fusion in Word and Image of Che Guevara and Jesus Christ (De Gruyter 2016). A book on the graphic novelettes on Cham is with the publisher, and he is working on the Birth of Modern English Comic Strip 1847-1870.

The 168th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on THURSDAY, November 3, 2016 at 7pm at Parsons School of Design, University Center, 63 Fifth Ave., room L105 (lower level). Free and open to the public. PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT IS HAPPENING ON A THURSDAY EVENING at 63 Fifth Ave!

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