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Franciszka Themerson's Ubu Comic Strip: Autography, Caricature, and the Avant-Garde

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Abstract:

This essay establishes a graphic history pertaining to Franciszka Themerson's UBU Comic Strip (1970). A product of her extensive engagement with Alfred Jarry's play Ubu Roi (1896), this work invites us to consider Themerson's vanguard approach to caricature-, cartoon-, and comic strip-making in relation to their interwoven histories. To this end, a connection is made between Themerson (1907-1988) and “father of the comic strip,” Rodolphe Töpffer (1799-1846), through their shared use of a specific and enduring autographic strategy described here as the “slovenly idiom.” This idiom is traced from the emergent modern caricature, cartoon and comic strip of the nineteenth century to the assimilation of these graphic strategies by the avant-garde community to which Jarry (1873-1907) belonged in fin-de-siècle Paris. Links are drawn between Jarry's and his associates' graphic depictions of Ubu and Themerson's later portrayal of the character.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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