5 November 2021
Take delight in the pioneering, extraordinary and funny drawings of Victorian London cartoonist and actress Marie Duval, whose work is revealed in this exhibition. After 130 years of neglect, obfuscation and erasure by her male contemporaries and heirs, current interest in her work is re-writing the history of comics in English.
Duval drew under a number of male and female pseudonyms and her work appeared in a variety of cheap British penny papers, albums and books of the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. An actress as well as a cartoonist, she lived and worked in a London environment of music halls and unlicensed theatres, sensational plays, serials, novels and comic journals. Her drawing style was theatrical, untutored and introduced many techniques that only became common in much later cartooning.
Between March 1869 and July 1885, Duval drew hundreds of comic strip pages and vignettes for the magazine Judy or the London serio-comic journal and spin-off compilations, focusing on the humour, attitudes, urbanity and poverty of the types of people she knew. Her masterstroke was the development of the character Ally Sloper, a ne’er do well London ‘everyman’. In her hands, Sloper was to become the comedy icon of his age.
The exhibition and The Marie Duval Archive (www.marieduval.org) have been produced by the University of Chester and Central Saint Martins, in partnership with Guildhall Library and with the support of the British Library and the London Library, made possible by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK.