Puck, the pioneering magazine of the Gilded Age, sought to change the world through the power of laughter. The exhibition With a Wink and a Nod: Cartoonists of the Gilded Age features 74 rare original drawings created for Puck, as well as published cartoons and over 20 vintage magazines.
Shakespeare’s mischievous faerie Puck and his observation on human folly—“What fools these mortals be!” he cries in A Midsummer Night’s Dream—were featured on the masthead, and capture perfectly the aims of Puck. Created by Austrian immigrant and cartoonist Joseph Keppler, Sr. in 1876, Puck began as a German language publication. The first English edition came out in 1877, and for the next 40 years, the magazine’s talented artists left no stone in society unturned—gleefully ridiculing everything from religion to politics, money, domesticity, and other aspects of daily American life.
Puck’s editors encouraged creative experimentation, and hired cartoonists who pushed the limits of the art form. Puck was the first magazine to use full-color lithographs on the front, back, and centerfold, with bold black and white cartoons inside. It published work by the era’s most distinguished illustrators, and also proved a training ground for extraordinary new talent. With a Wink and a Nod features original black and white drawings in a variety of styles by Samuel Ehrhart, Louis Dalrymple, Louis Glackens, Franklin Howarth, Frederick Opper, William Rogers, and more.
The pages of Puck are a unique vantage point for understanding life in Gilded Age America. During this period Chicago banker Samuel M. Nickerson and his family lived in the Driehaus Museum’s Italianate ‘Marble Palace’. The Nickersons may have laughed with recognition when Puck poked fun at the wealthy classes, or enjoyed the special 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition edition, which Keppler moved to Chicago briefly to produce. On view in the restored second-floor galleries—once the Nickersons’ private bedrooms—With a Wink and a Nod offers an immersive experience of the culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
With a Wink and a Nod: Cartoonists of the Gilded Age has been organized by the Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida, with special thanks to Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf.