Famed political cartoonist’s archives arrive at UVA

pat oliphant collectionThe University of Virginia is the new home of the papers of Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Patrick Bruce Oliphant.

The archive, to be housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, includes more than 6,000 of Oliphant’s daily political cartoon drawings, including the plate used by the Denver Post to print the cartoon that earned him the Pulitzer Prize.

University Librarian and Dean of Libraries John Unsworth said the addition is both a complement to the library’s current holdings and an unparalleled collection in its own right.

“We expect it to become a major resource for scholars at the University and beyond,” Unsworth said. “It’s not only of historical significance, but also of great artistic merit and value to students of the human condition, and we feel very fortunate to have it here.”

The archive will be the subject of its own major exhibition at UVA in fall 2019 and will supplement other exhibitions and University programs. After processing, it will also be available for scholarly and educational use for UVA faculty, students and the general public.

Oliphant said he considered options for where to leave his archive for scholarly use before settling on UVA.

“UVA stands out as something else,” he said. “It seemed a natural thing to do.”

Background

Oliphant, born in Australia in July 1935, moved to the U.S. in 1964 to become the political cartoonist for the Denver Post. His work became nationally syndicated that year, and international syndication followed in 1965. He won a Pulitzer Prize for a Feb. 1, 1966, cartoon titled “They Won’t Get Us To The Conference Table … Will They?” that depicted Ho Chi Minh, the president of North Vietnam, carrying a dead Viet Cong soldier.

“Patrick Oliphant met editor’s deadlines over the length of his storied career with editorial cartoons that stand today and for the future as evidence of our national politics, society and culture,” said Brenda Gunn, associate university librarian for special collections and preservation. “I’m proud of the library’s role in preserving Patrick’s life’s work and look forward to creating opportunities for students, faculty and scholars to engage with this significant body of work.”

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Oliphant has won numerous awards, including the National Cartoonist Society Editorial Cartoon Award seven times, in 1971, 1973, 1974, 1984, 1989, 1990 and 1991; the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1968 and 1972; and the Thomas Nast Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1992. He has also received the Order of Australia, the country’s highest honor, in recognition of his work.

His work has been displayed in numerous exhibitions, including at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Library of Congress; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; the Susan Conway Gallery in Washington, D.C. and Santa Fe, New Mexico; The Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C.; and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

The Collection

The archive is now physically at UVA and is being processed to be made available for research.

In addition to the original drawings and art for daily political cartoons, the collection includes:

  • Sketchbooks in which Oliphant worked out his ideas.
  • Original art with color specified for many of Oliphant’s 1984 “Sunday Punk” comics.
  • Scrapbooks put together by his father Donald of newspaper cartoons from Oliphant’s early career in Australia.
  • Work commissioned for publications such as The New Yorker, Washingtonian, and Time magazine.
  • Videotapes and audio recordings.
  • Fine art by Oliphant that remained in his personal collection.
  • Correspondence from writers, artists and celebrities as varied as Hunter S. Thompson, Ansel Adams, Carl Sagan, Walter Cronkite and Gilda Radner (signing as “Roseanne Roseannadanna”).
  • 22 sculptures, most of them bronzes of leading political figures.
  • Drawings in a variety of media, such as charcoal, pencil, pen and ink, and watercolors.