Masters of American Comics

September 15, 2006 - January 28, 2007

Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, comic strips and comic books have been a tremendously influential form of mass media. Masters of American Comics brings together the work of fourteen artists, from Winsor McCay to Chris Ware, who have defined and expanded the possibilities of a vastly popular art form.

A two-part exhibition at the Jewish Museum and The Newark Museum

Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, comic strips and comic books have been a tremendously influential form of mass media. Masters of American Comics brings together the work of fourteen artists, from Winsor McCay to Chris Ware, who have defined and expanded the possibilities of a vastly popular art form. Presented in two parts, the first, at the Newark Museum, looks at comic strips in the first half of the twentieth century, and the second, at the Jewish Museum, looks at comic books from the 1950s to the present.

Co-curator John Carlin writes in his catalogue essay, “The history of comics is about many things—stories, gags, characters and layouts. But in the end, it all boils down to inventive ways to design pictures and words to engage readers and make them pay attention.” While the exhibition examines the stylistic development of comic art, it also provides a lively survey of the American twentieth century through some of its most well-known—and most beloved—creations.

This exhibition began as a collaboration between two institutions in Los Angeles, where the first half of the show was shown at The Hammer Museum and the second half across town at The Museum of Contemporary Art. Here, the comic strips will be shown at the Newark Museum while the comic books will be at the Jewish Museum. Masters of American Comics was co-curated by independent scholars John Carlin and Brian Walker.

Artists at The Jewish Museum

  • Will Eisner
  • Jack Kirby
  • Harvey Kurtzman
  • R. Crumb
  • Gary Panter
  • Chris Ware

Artists at the Newark Museum

  • Winsor McCay
  • Lionel Feininger
  • George Herriman
  • E. C. Segar
  • Frank King
  • Chester Gould
  • Milton Caniff
  • Charles M. Schulz

Masters of American Comics was jointly organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The exhibition is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The presentations at the Jewish Museum and The Newark Museum are supported through a leadership grant from the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Major support for the Jewish Museum’s presentation is provided by Jane and James Stern.
Marketing support was provided by Reed Exhibitions and New York Comic Con.