'The Raft of Brexit' (2018), parody of Theodore Géricault's painting 'The Raft of the Medusa', featuring British politicians trying to steer the U.K. after the country left the European Union in 2016. Boris Johnson holds the mast, while Theresa May waves the flag to U.S. President Donald Trump at the horizon, portrayed as a mock version of the Statue of Liberty, holding a Ku Klux Klan torch and a Twitter book.

Dave Brown is a British editorial cartoonist, painter, sculptor and drummer. Since 1996, he is the house cartoonist of The Independent. He mostly draws political cartoons, but is also active as a sports cartoonist. One of his trademarks are art parodies, which he nicknames his 'Rogues' Gallery'. Brown's work has sometimes drawn controversy, but also received several awards. He should not be confused with the British children's book illustrator Dave Brown, known for livening up the pages of Janice Levy's 'The Man Who Lived in a Hat' (Hampton Roads, 2003), nor with the American political cartoonist David G. Brown.

Early life and career
Dave Brown was born in 1957 in Barnehurst, Kent, as the son of a teacher. As a child, Brown enjoyed drawing caricatures in class, and made his own comic strips. Among his main graphic influences are the painters Caravaggio, Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco de Goya, J.W.W. Turner and Vincent van Gogh. His idols in the field of cartooning are James Gillray, Les Gibbard and Ralph Steadman. Between 1976 and 1980, Brown studied Fine Arts at Leeds University. After graduation, he moved to Brent in North London, where he worked as an art teacher at the Strathcona Social Education Centre in Wembley, educating children with learning difficulties. In addition, he made cartoons for the local teacher union magazine in Brent. In 1983, Brown retired from education and became a painter, freelance graphic designer, stage designer and motorcycle courier.


Cartoon mocking North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and his megalomaniac war plans, The Independent, 12 April 2013.

Cartoons
Although Brown was keen on painting, this art form also had its practical problems, for instance storage. At one point, he had to move out of his studio, because the building was going to be demolished to make room for a high-rise flat. Since he made huge paintings, it was difficult to store them away elsewhere, since he couldn't afford to live in a payable large house. From a practical and economic perspective, being a freelance cartoonist was a welcome change of profession. In 1989, Dave Brown won a Political Cartoon competition organized by the newspaper The Sunday Times. Becoming one of its regular cartoonists, his first cartoon in The Sunday Times saw print on 11 June 1989.

In October 1996, Brown joined the daily The Independent, for which he is still active today. His cartoons have additionally appeared in The Daily Mail, The Economist, Financial Times, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Prospect and The Scotsman. For The Daily Express and Mail on Sunday, he provides sports cartoons. A collection of cartoons by Brown and fellow cartoonists Tim Sanders and Peter Schrank has been published under the title 'An Independent Line: Cartoons from The Independent' (Political Cartoon Society, 2008).


Cartoon depicting British Conservative Party members Liz Truss (holding Margaret Thatcher's face as the head of Medusa) and Rishi Sunak, who'd succeed each other as Prime Minister in the fall of 2022, The Independent, 3 August 2022.

Style
Brown is known for his biting cartoons. In an editorial column, printed on 2 July 2019 in The Independent, he stated: "I've always believed if a political cartoonist is not causing offence then he's just not doing the job right. A political cartoon should be more than just a topical gag; it should have a strong point of view, and an individual voice. If everybody agrees with what you are saying then you're not saying much at all. (...) Increasingly, people seem to believe they have a right not to be offended, and that anything that more than one person finds offensive should be censored, banned, groveling, apologized for, and the culprit is fired. I, on the other hand, believe everybody should be offended at least once a day, preferably by one of my cartoons. It's good to be unsettled, tipped out of our comfort zones and made to think." In Brown's opinion, a cartoonist should unpick the image behind a politician's persona and "reveal the sordid, naked beast beneath." He compares it with Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale 'The Emperor's New Clothes': "(...) The cartoonist is the person who points and says: 'The emperor's not wearing any clothes.' Though of course, being cartoonists we feel compelled to add: 'and he's got a ludicrously small...'."

One of Brown's most beloved cartoons was made in 2012, when a report came out on the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, where 97 people were crushed to death in an overcrowded central pen. Originally, the deaths were blamed on hooliganism, but the report now stated that the actual blame went to the police forces, who let too many people in at once. In Brown's cartoon, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and several police officers sweep all the victims under the football field. Brown received many positive responses, especially from people in Liverpool, whose local football club had been misblamed for hooliganism for decades since that tragic event.

Rogues Gallery
While political cartoonists frequently parody famous artworks, Brown has turned this concept into a full-blown series. While being a cartoonist with The Sunday Times, he first took to spoofing iconic paintings, sculptures, book illustrations, photographs and movie scenes and turning them in to cartoons with politicians. As somebody with a strong cultural luggage, he has always been interested in referencing fine art. But above all, Brown wanted to distinguish himself from his colleagues by doing this on a regular basis. Much to his frustration, his art spoofs were only printed from time to time. It wasn't until he became house cartoonist for The Independent that he saw a new opportunity. He was approached to liven up the paper's Saturday editions, where, from January 2004 on, his art spoofs have run on a weekly basis under the title 'Rogues' Gallery'. His parodies reference modern-day politicians and events. They have also been published in book form by the Political Cartoon Society, under the titles 'Rogues' Gallery' (2007) and 'Rogues' Gallery: More Misused Masterpieces' (2009). In 2012, the 'Rogues' Gallery' parodies were exhibited in London.

Brown has occasionally switched his pencil for a pen, writing editorial columns in The Independent about a variety of topics he has strong opinions about. He has, for instance, defended colleagues in the cartooning industry against censorship, cancellations or assassination attempts.


2019 cartoon by Dave Brown, ridiculing U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Controversy
In May 1997, Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of the U.K., bringing a Labour government in Downing Street 10. Before the results were known, Brown sent in a cartoon of a headless figure in front of Downing Street 10 under the tagline, "Pin the head on the Tory: we all lose". Without consulting Brown, the newspaper's editor removed the words "we all lose" and changed the text. Eventually, the entire cartoon was removed from later editions. Brown suspected that the editor felt the cartoon was either too dated - since Labour had won and not the Conservatives - or too cynical. In hindsight, Brown felt this particular cartoon was actually prophetic, since Blair's policies didn't really differ much from the Conservatives as his administration continued along. But at the time, he disliked this executive meddling. In August 1997, he left The Independent out of protest, but returned a year later, once a new editor had been appointed.

A 2000 cartoon by Brown about PLO leader Yasser Arafat was censored by his editor, despite being already greenlighted by his comment editor. The cartoon depicted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a phallic tank barrel in front of his groin, while Arafat was seen in a submissive position, tethered in the desert. The cartoon was eventually printed showing only Arafat. Three years later, another Sharon cartoon caused controversy. On 27 January 2003, a Brown drawing was printed spoofing 19th-century painter Francisco de Goya's work 'Saturn Devouring One of his Children', with Sharon as Saturn, cannibalizing Palestinian children. The cartoon referenced an Israeli missile attack on Gaza City, only a few days before the Israeli elections. Numerous readers, among them the Israeli embassy in London, accused Brown of anti-Semitism. They interpreted the cartoon as a reference to the medieval urban legend about Jews being murderers of Christian children. Brown and Independent chief editor Simon Kelner denied this misinterpretation, pointing out that the cartoon merely criticized Sharon's political actions. Brown also noticed that most readers simply didn't recognize the reference to Goya's painting, also because the editors had accidentally cropped away his written credit to Goya. On 22 May 2003, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) dismissed the complaints about the cartoon and stated that is wasn't racist.

On 13 June 2003, John Reid became British Secretary of State for Health. One of his policies was a pledge to ban smoking in all places where food was served. Brown drew a cartoon about this pledge, depicting Reid with a cigarette in his hand. It was meant as just a one-time joke, but when Brown later met Reid, the politician took offense at this seemingly insignificant detail, telling him he "had quit smoking years ago." Brown realized that an anti-smoking campaigner like Reid obviously didn't want to be reminded that he too was once a smoker. So he made it a running gag whenever he drew him, just to piss him off.


Cartoon, The Independent, 25 October 2022. Dave Brown's submission for the 2022 Cartoon of the Year Award. It shows the British Conservative Party in their "annus horribilis" 2022, as a snake shedding its skin, after Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss abdicated and Rishi Sunak succeeded them, all in a matter of months. 

Other activities
Brown is also active as a painter and sculptor, known for making busts of celebrities. A bust of cartoonist James Gillray was unveiled on 17 November 2021 and included in the British Cartoon Museum in London. This bust and another, depicting football player Jimmy Murphy, are included as part of the 2023 annual exhibition in the Royal Cambrian Academy. Brown has also sold some of his busts for the charity organization EndChildPoverty.

Graphic contributions
Cartoons by Brown adorned the covers of the 2020 and 2021 editions of Tim Benson's 'Britain's Best Ever Political Cartoons' (Hachette UK, 2021), collecting the best annual cartoons published in British magazines.

Recognition
In 2002, Brown was voted Cartoon Art Trust Caricaturist of the Year. He additionally won the "Political Cartoon of the Year Award" four times. On 25 November 2003, he received it for his controversial parody of Goya's painting 'Saturn Devouring One of His Children', featuring Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On 8 December 2006, Brown won the prize again. Four years later, on 8 December 2010, he received the award a third time, this time for a cartoon U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron using Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as a canary in a coal mine. Brown won the "Political Cartoon of the Year Award" a fourth time on 5 December 2012, for a drawing satirizing the phone hacking scandal by the gossip paper News of the World that caused the paper's instant cancellation. The cartoon in question parodies Edgar Degas' painting 'In A Café' and features investigative judge Brian Leveson being used as a bar table.


Self-portrait (2022).

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