History And Context
One of the world's most prominent political cartoonists today, Patrick Oliphant was born in Australia in 1935 and began his journalistic career as a copyboy for his hometown newspaper. At the age of 20, he was promoted to the position of cartoonist. In 1964, Oliphant came to the United States to work as the political cartoonist for The Denver Post. One year later, his work was syndicated nationally by the Los Angeles Times. In 1975, Oliphant joined the Washington Star and moved to Universal Press Syndicate in 1980. A year later, Oliphant decided to work as an independent cartoonist. His cartoons are now published in countless newspapers and magazines worldwide and commissioned work has appeared in The New Yorker magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Oliphant has won numerous awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 and "Cartoonist of the Year" in 1972. Dartmouth College honored him in 1981 with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Volatile political and social situations became the catalyst for Oliphant's work. "If the country was at peace and everything was tranquility and steadiness, there would be nothing for a cartoonist to do," the artist explained. Oliphant believed that an appropriate state of mind produced the strongest editorial cartoons. "You've got to be angry," he explained. "The sense of outrage, bringing yourself to a boil once a day, is good for you." Oliphant transformed his anger and outrage into political cartoons that used caricature and satire. He said, "Without a certain amount of savagery the cartoonist is really not doing his job." The artist once admitted. "If only good people populated the political scene; I would have nothing to do. Good people make poor targets. I like villains."
Oliphant became incensed during the Watergate scandal of 1973 and 1974 that ultimately caused the fall of his favorite villain, Richard Nixon. Oliphant once observed that "Watergate was a great time for political cartoonists. I look back on the days of Nixon with some nostalgia because there was a new cartoon every day."
Oliphant's cynical impressions of the 37th president of the United States are captured in I Have Returned and Naked Nixon. In I Have Returned Oliphant emphasizes the facial features and gestures of Nixon most ridiculed in the political cartoons about the president. From a dark inky surface, the bushy eyebrows and beady eyes of the former president suddenly appear at the lower margin of the lithograph. At the top of the print, Nixon's hands forceful gesture his infamous victory salute, an ironic reference to the symbol of peace. Naked Nixon shows Oliphant's interest in the sculptural work of Daumier, specifically his caricatures. Here, Nixon has been physically stripped of his dignity. This work will be the first sculpture by Oliphant to enter the collection and the inclusion of both gifts adds to our representation of the artist's work.