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Nast Overview // Panorama Overview // Panorama History // The Grand Caricaturama Background // The Grand Caricaturama On Stage // The Fate of the Grand Caricaturama Panels

 

After Nast and his family moved to Morristown, New Jersey, in 1871, the Caricaturama panels were stored in a shed behind their house until acquired by H. P. Graf, a local sign painter.  Some of the panels were apparently used by the new owner as drop cloths, while others may have been burned.  “The Last Ditch” was folded in half, mounted on a crude wooden stretcher, and hung on the ceiling of his studio.  Graf’s son, George, inherited eight of the panels and offered to sell them to several men in Morristown, but no one had the space to display them.  In the 1940s, local historian Carl Schuerzer borrowed the paintings for a show at the Kiwanis Cavalcade exhibition in the Morristown Armory.  Some years later, George Graf gave “The Palace of Tears” to Gus Bauer, a local tavern owner, and “Swinging Round the Circle” to the public library in Morristown.  Eventually, Graf placed five of his remaining panels on consignment with antiques dealer Theodore Merkt of Montville, New Jersey.  In 1968, they were purchased by Erwin Swann, a collector of caricatures and cartoons.   

On March 24 through May 10, 1970, the five Caricaturama panels owned by Swann—“Columbia and Jonathan at Home,” “The Kansas Row,” “King Cotton,” “The Uprising of the North,” and “The Massacre at New Orleans”—were exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York City, with a descriptive catalogue written by Lloyd Goodrich.  The pictures had been restored by an ancient Asian technique of saturating mulberry paper with a water-vegetable paste mixture that was pounded into the rear of each painting with a wide-faced wooden hammer.  The process mulched the mulberry paper with the actual painting to produce a stable backing, which restorers estimated would last for about another century.  Nothing was done to preserve the color.  Following the Whitney show, the collection was shown at the National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, from July 1 through August 30, 1970.  After Swann’s death in 1973, the five Caricaturama paintings were donated to the Library of Congress where they are now stored in a government warehouse. 

Besides the five panels in the Swann collection, only three others are known to exist today.  “Swinging Round the Circle,” was given to the Joint Free Library of Morristown and Morris Township, New Jersey, where it hangs in the Periodical Room.  W. Parson Todd, a boyhood friend of Nast’s youngest child, Cyril, bought “The Palace of Tears.”   He acquired “The Last Ditch,” from the estate of Carl Scherzer, who had bought the painting from George Graf’s widow, Ida.  Todd hung both panels in Macculloch Hall, a museum he founded across the street from the Nast home in Morristown, New Jersey.  That institution contains many Nast drawings as well as a photographic set of all 33 Grand Caricaturama panels, which are reproduced with permission on this website.

 

 

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