Peter Brookes – nailing hubris with one biting image

Skewering a politician or a public figure with one freeze-framed image in a cartoon takes a particular set of skills and mindset. Peter Brookes is at the top of the pinnacle, contributing to The Times for three decades, and now at 80 has produced another collection of his latest work entitled Torrid Times.  

  He says that cartoonists are “the permanent opposition”. “In other words whoever’s in power, you administer a good kicking when it’s deserved.” “I’m a columnist, a visual columnist. I have to make an argument in a cartoon that is cut and dried. You don’t have room for much ambiguity.”

  He was born 28 September 1943 Liverpool, England, and is a Sun conjunct Neptune in Libra trine Uranus, sextile Pluto. His Neptune is conjunct Mercury in late Virgo square Saturn with a Mars Uranus conjunct in Gemini.

Libra is concerned with fairness. Moon, Mercury, Venus in writerly Virgo; and Saturn, Mars, Uranus in Gemini – he was designed to communicate. Mars Uranus is unconventional, uncompromising and rebellious, inclined to challenge authority figures and to take the outsider’s view. Uranus trine Neptune is creative and inspired; as is Sun Neptune – and Mercury Neptune thinks and communicates in images. He also had his Saturn square Neptune (and Mercury) making him wish for a fairer society.

  James Gillray, 13 August 1756, the Georgian era caricaturist, went for biting satire as well. His most famous work: The Plumb-pudding in Danger  depicts Napoleon Bonaparte and British PM William Pitt carving up the globe.

  He was a Sun Venus in Leo trine Pluto; with Mercury in Leo conjunct Neptune; and a heavily aspected Uranus which was on the focal point of a yod to Jupiter sextile Sun, square Pluto and in a wide opposition to Mars. With his Neptune opposition Saturn.

  He did have similarities to Brookes – strong Neptune for creative images; strong Uranus for a mischievous twist; and an influential and stinging Pluto.

4 thoughts on “Peter Brookes – nailing hubris with one biting image

  1. Generally speaking, I not only miss political cartoons but newspapers in general. I used to buy loads of tabloids during the week and the Sunday Telegraph and the Observer at the weekend.

    When the Garfield magazine was discontinued I bought at different times The Daily Express and The Daily Mail and cut out the Garfield comics for my son but only after they had been thoroughly perused and the crosswords done. Online newspapers just Don’t compare.

  2. Thanks Marjorie, Peter Brookes I grew up with Gillray – my father collected satirical, 18th/19th century prints – so I have a huge appreciation for the man, though he was a terrible misanthropist and indeed a misogynist, but he’s given us a rich legacy of those times and of London life during this period. Gillray lived with his publisher, the print seller Hannah Humphrey in her shop in New Bond Street, eventually St. James Street, London. When he started to lose his sight, he began to drink heavily and I think at this point he was suffering from severe depression. He jumped out of an attic window in 1811 which he survived, but his mental health had deteriorated so badly, he was unable to work and was cared for by Hannah until he died.

    It’s fascinating to see his chart. There’s all the elements of a comic’s chart – Mercury/Jupiter/Uranus contacts – but with both a Neptunian and Libran element. I think Marjorie makes a good point about Libra in that the caricaturist takes aim at the wealthy and powerful and so seeks to rebalance society to an extent. You also see it in the chart of William Hogarth too, who has Moon and Venus in Libra and also Sun/Mercury/Jupiter in Scorpio conjunct NN. Thomas Rowlandson has an Aquarian Moon and Jupiter in Libra. But one signature which repeats in the charts of all three caricaturists is Mars in Virgo, which must be what gives these artists the biting, critical edge needed for their satire to work successfully. In fact, regarding ‘writerly Virgo’, text plays a huge role in caricature and in fact Gillray’s cartoons are lavish with it. See for example his cartoon depicting the execution of King Louis XIV where a raft of text expresses Gillrays despair and disgust at the bloodthirsty regicide. Not that he was averse to depicting the British Royal family in all its debauchery and in particular George, Prince Regent as a self-indulgent, corpulent rogue whose excesses had bankrupted the country. Then there’s the caricature of Queen Charlotte as a bare-breasted sea monster with serpents for hair and the famous cartoon of Mrs Fitzherbert’s slippered feet astride those of Prince George – none of which would be allowed today.

    • Herblock (Herbert Block, Oct.13, 1909, Chicago, Illinois) was another of the brilliant, truly great editorial cartoonists who documented an era for The Washington Post. He skewered politicians from the McCarthy era in the ’50s and, once Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, famously announced he was “giving him a shave” so he wouldn’t look so perennially sinister with his 5 o’clock shadow. I grew up with his insightful cartoons, met him once or twice
      at book signings and grieved when he died in 2001. One of his last books documented his love affair with his rescue kitten Bella.

  3. thanks Marjorie an underrated art form. Any thoughts on the great Steve Bell, 26.2.51? A modern giant of the form and scathingly funny on his day.

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