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Art Crime

First published in The Guardian, 19 March, 2014


I found this page of old police mugshots in my sock drawer. No idea how it got there but it meant I didn’t have to think up a new cartoon, which was a relief.  This may be cheating but morality isn’t my strong suit.


Occasionally, due to the extreme ineptness of the wannabe criminal, a case goes viral on the internet. This happened with Venus de Milo. It didn’t hurt that she was topless.


Judith slipped into Holofernes tent with the promise of sex and under this false pretense took something extremely valuable from him. Holofernes was so shocked that he lost his mind. Also his beard, hair and face. His whole head basically. 


As is the case with the vast majority of aircraft arrests, Leda was probably drunk. Have you ever noticed that kids born to parents of different races (miscegenation) are usually very good looking? Apparently it is even more pronounced when the parents are of different species (mistake). One of Leda’s children from this disgusting encounter was Helen of Troy. True story, though a myth.


Picasso started out as such a fine, skilful artist that it is almost unbelievable he became so crap at drawing later on. It’s so hard to believe that I suspect he might have been doing it on purpose. The authorities certainly thought so and he was duly arrested. Wrongly in my view. He obviously had mental problems.


The gendarme who arrested Manet’s barmaid was heard to say of her that the lights were on but nobody was home. Fair enough. Any bar staff worth their salt could tell that this Toulouse-Lautrec person was underage. He was also highly aggressive and appeared to have a chip on his shoulder about something. I was pleased to discover that this truculent individual was successfully prosecuted and placed in a young offenders institution for 32 years.

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First published in The Guardian online 1 June 2011
You could have zilch interest in art and you would still know this painting – The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. Very few artworks are as iconic as this one – if there were my life would be a lot easier. It’s risky making jokes about art as there is a danger of losing the audience if they’re not familiar with the artwork. Is there are a more dangerous abyss edge to be teetering on? I don’t think so. Try finding the episode where Bear Grylls draws art cartoons. You can’t – it doesn’t exist. Even he is too gutless. 

I don’t really have a surefire method for thinking up jokes but when I’m stuck one tactic is to write down as many aspects of the painting as I can, then focus on one of them. The blending together of the two figures, their different patterns merging imperceptibly, was the angle I stumped for. Once I hit upon the idea that the pattern of the Man and the Woman’s clothes was actually the pattern on a duvet (or blanket or doona), things quickly led to the above scenario. The humour is in the collision of idealised romantic love with the mundane bickering reality of a married couple. I had to use my imagination for this as my experience of marriage is of a blissful union of souls without the slightest hint of friction or disagreement.

As an aside, another artist who does this blending of different patterns really well is Edouard Vuillard. I sometimes play a mental game with myself of picking a year at random and deciding the best painting produced that year. Vuillard, with his lovely little domestic interiors, has the whole of the 1890s covered (this is harsh on Paul Gauguin, who also hit his brilliant best form in that decade). But when it comes to thinking up new patterns, Gustav Klimt is in a league of his own. He loves it. He has often been accused of horror vacui, the fear of blank space. Who cares? The artist Hundertwasser said something about being able to make a whole career from the pattern found in any inch of a Klimt. This inexhaustible pattern-making ability was combined, in Klimt, with jaw-dropping technical skills (just check his early work) and a terrific sense of composition, making it impossible, on a purely visual level, not to be bowled over by him.