Opened in 2006, the Cartoon Museum is a small but interesting museum, near the British Museum, with around 200 examples of British cartoons, caricature, and comic art from the 18th century to the present day.
There are two floors and a popular temporary exhibition gallery. As kids go free it's a great place to bring the family. The Young Artists' Gallery has cartooning and animation workshops in the school holidays as well as family fun days throughout the year.
The Cartoon Museum is a self-funded independent museum run by a registered charity, the Cartoon Art Trust. The Cartoon Museum Collection has more than 2,000 examples of the very best of British cartoon art and is regularly accessing more important works. As well as the temporary exhibitions providing reasons to return, for conservation reasons, and to give visitors the opportunity to see the widest possible range of artwork, cartoons in the main galleries are also regularly changed.
Cartoon Museum Review
A clear timeline at the start shows the history of British cartooning back to 1700 and the museum has some interesting historical artwork by William Hogarth who had a way of showing the horror and reality of the time yet in such a beautiful way to not alienate his wealthy buyers. (You can see more of Hogarth's work at the nearby Foundling Museum, a hospital for abandoned children he founded.)
We tried the free family trail for the temporary exhibition which kept my daughter entertained so I could read some of the captions to the artworks downstairs. Then upstairs, she settled down to some serious drawing of the one character she recognized: Dennis the Menace from The Beano (as there's a TV adaptation), and I had more time to explore and even browse in the reading area.
There are plenty of recognizable artworks (if you're over six years old) and it's a wonderful way to whisk yourself back to simpler times and revel in nostalgia. Expect to see Peanuts, Doonesbury, Andy Capp, and Rupert the Bear to give you an idea of the range. I enjoyed seeing an artwork by Sir John Tenniel who produced the illustrations for Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland.
I read a lot of "girl's comics" as a child and I felt they weren't well represented here although there was one cover artwork for Bunty. I also didn't see anything to represent Viz comic (which may well be as a lot of the content wouldn't suit a family audience) although the museum did hold a '30 Years of Viz' exhibition in 2010.
I wondered if the museum is still relevant to a young audience who now mostly watch their cartoons rather than read them. But the Young Artists' Gallery, and the drawing workshops, are popular as there is something deeply satisfying about using pencil and paper to show your imagination.
I saw a display of some young cartoonists' work and noticed many were influenced by graphic novels and Manga style illustrations which, again, are under-represented in the museum.
Whereas in the National Gallery the artworks are roped off to keep visitors from touching, here I was grateful the artworks were all behind glass as we could get close but my daughter wanted to be able to point to what she saw and sometimes touched the glass.
It's not a modern museum: there are no buttons to press, projections on walls, atmospheric audio, nor any touch-screen technology which seems to be rife these days. But accept it for what it - the chance to see some wonderful comic artwork and maybe even spark that desire to draw within you - then it's well worth a visit.
Quite frankly, the well-stocked shop is going to have me popping back regularly as it's got some really unusual gift ideas.
35 Little Russell Street
London WC1A 2HH
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There is an admission change for adults but kids go free (under 18s).
- Visit this attraction for free with a London Pass
- Find out more about the London Pass.
- Buy the London Pass now.
Tel: 020 7580 8155
While in the area, you may like to try this Free Day Out in Central London which includes plenty more places to see nearby.