George Herriman is the greatest of all the great master newspaper cartoonists. Not only witty and wise he was one of the greatest masters of the pen.
No one ever mentioned comics or cartoons of any form when I was in art school. Even the elder teachers, who had grown up during the hay-day of Sunday newspaper strips like Krazy Kat and Gasoline Alley, never once mentioned them. My teachers loved to say that Picasso drew like an angel, but no one ever mentioned that he and Gertrude Stein (among many other elites of the art world) were enthralled by Krazy Kat.
When it came to what types or qualities of art and artists would be tolerated as being worthy of attention, praise and adulation, there was a very definite snobbery among my teachers. Naturally, that snobbery filtered down to us students. The result was that only those artists whose work resided in the great collections of the world’s museums were praised. That’s no knock on those collections or those artists. I’m just pointing out how restricted the cultural view was among my teachers. Herriman had about as much chance of getting the respect of my art teachers as a badly lit adult film from the 1970s.
It’s unfortunate that it took me so long to discover him and it’s sad that he didn’t have a place in my art school education. Herriman offers so much depth and beauty and hilarity and sweetness that surely everyone can find some way to relish in the little stories he tells.
This is the last panel from the last Krazy Kat Sunday strip. This image, especially when seen in context of the strip, is haunting. Pup’s heart has stopped in terror and panic over the possible drowning of Krazy. He tramps desperately to nowhere while clutching Krazy tightly; his mind already puddled in madness and grief and despair. He looks out at us… past us, not seeing or noticing anything. Without Krazy, he is an aimless and deranged zombie.
It’s a folly that I would even bother… but here’s a feeble study / sketch by me: