The University of Virginia holds the largest collection of draftsman’s art
Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE — After several years of negotiations, the University of Virginia at Charlottesville received approximately 7,000 political cartoons and other artwork from Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and Santa Fe resident Pat Oliphant in 2018.
“It was really like a kind of time capsule of Pat’s work from the late 60s until the last drawing he did in 2014,” said university professor Elizabeth Hutton Turner, during a recent telephone interview.
This makes the university the greatest repository of his work and professional papers “and all material relating to his career in America and some of the work (including) the scrapbooks his father kept while working in Australia,” said Hutton Turner, who specializes in American and modern art.
Hutton Turner and Molly Schwartzburg, curator of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the university are both friends of Oliphant and his wife, Susan Conway Oliphant, and worked with the couple to acquire the collection.
The library, where the works are held, featured the collection in a public exhibition which the Oliphants attended and which included a symposium suggested by Oliphant on the future of political cartoons.
“He’s very passionate about the future of the genre,” Schwartzburg said.
Conway Oliphant has been working on creating a database of her husband’s work, which she estimates to number between 15,000 and 20,000 drawings.
“Having a digitized record of that and making it searchable and searchable and having images associated with each entry and being able to search it by date and by theme, by topic, is a huge resource,” Hutton Turner said.
Hutton Turner spoke of the “line” in Oliphant’s work, which is defined as being able to create an illustration using strokes of different angles and weights.
“I think Patrick Oliphant is a national treasure,” Hutton Turner said. “His prodigious talent and his incredible talent for drawing, the way he is able to carry our minds and thoughts in a way that really cuts through a lot of confusion to present something so clear and so beautiful, I mean that there is such fluidity in his line.
In addition to cartoons, the collection includes his sculptures – of many presidents – and works on paper, letters, fan mail and hate mail.
“The collection will really provide biographers and other scholars with the basic material to understand Oliphant’s impact on culture,” Schwartzburg said.
Academic interest in Oliphant’s work goes beyond his artistry, said Hutton Turner.
“Not only because he is a wonderful artist, a wonderful cartoonist, a wonderful caricaturist, a satirist and of course a journalist, it is also that his commentary is a wonderful resource, a main resource for those who study history of the presidency, study the history of American elections, studying various issues like that.