September 15, 2009 - December 31, 2009
Reading Room Gallery
27 W. 17th Avenue Mall
Winsor McCay was an unusually prolific cartoonist. More than thirty comic strip titles and ten animated films are credited to him. The decade between 1903 and 1913 was his most creative period. His biographer, John Canemaker, states, “…when the American comic strip was in its infancy, McCay became the first master of the form with two unsurpassed works of genius, Dream of the Rarebit Fiend…and Little Nemo in Slumberland.” In addition, McCay was an important pioneer animator and a popular vaudeville performer.
The date and place of McCay’s birth are unknown. He grew up in Michigan and was self-taught. He created his first comic strip, A Tale of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle, for the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1903. McCay soon left for New York City where he worked for James Gordon Bennett and later for William Randolph Hearst. Although his comic strips were formulaic, the sureness of his hand and the beauty of his drawings continue to delight. McCay’s interest in depicting movement is apparent throughout his comic strips, so it is not surprising that he found the new medium of animation intriguing.
In 1913, William Randolph Hearst ordered McCay to draw nothing but editorial illustrations. This constraint leaves contemporary students of McCay’s work puzzled. What might he have accomplished if he had devoted the last twenty years of his life to animation or comic strips? Winsor McCay: Legendary Cartoonist invites visitors to consider this question as they enjoy superb examples of McCay’s work that span his career.