Saturday, July 13, 2013

Herbert E. Crowley — A New Form of Art

[1] ‘The Influence of Slander,’ Current Literature, 1911.

Herbert Edmund Crowley was a man of many trades. Born in 1873 near London, England, his life ended in 1939 in Zurich, Switzerland. I could find no confirmation of him living in Canada [see 7]. He was married and spent the 1910s and part of the 20s in the US. He made cartoons, a dreamlike strip, paintings and sculptures. Critics, in describing his work as artist-author, used words like moralist, weirdness and mysticism.
For all this to emanate from an ordinary room in a New York street in the present decade is (…) at least a striking and entertaining circumstance. One cannot easily connect our bustling century with work so well planned and pondered. Mr. Martin Birnbaum — in the exhibition’s 8-page catalogue — tells us that Crowley spends several years on a single drawing and without loosing the freshness of his touch or the integrity of his conception. An Englishman making New York his home (…) The art critic of The New York Times, October 25, 1914

[2] ‘A Pioneer in a New Form of Art’, Current Literature, Vol. 50, Jan-Jun 1911, page 435.
[3] page 436.
[4] page 437.

[5] “Absurd! Absurd! It’s really quite absurd, / But here I surely am, the Ding Dong Bird!”— ‘The Wiggle Much,’ original drawing, 1 of 13 comic strip episodes in The New York Herald, March 27 to June 19, 1910.

[6] ‘Incapacity’ — sculpture by Herbert E. Crowley.

The drawings, with their elaborate and exquisite workmanship, hardly prepare us for the side of the artist’s talent revealed in the little statuettes of the gargoyle type, grotesques that have to do with human frailty. “Incapacity” is a creature howling in abandon over his hopeless ill. It is all quite childlike, but not childish, although at times on the border line. The art critic of The New York Times, October 25, 1914

[7] What is the mission of the “comic” ?… — ‘Being As Funny As You Can By Herbert Crowley; The mission of the comic.’ Article written by unknown journalist, in Cartoons Magazine, Vol. 7, No 4, April 1915, page 587.
[8] page 588.
[9] page 589.
Hoping that things will happen has nothing to do with dreams. A dream cannot happen. A dream is. Herbert Edmund Crowley, 1914

[10] Decorated opening capital ‘C’.

Thanks to Jeet Heer.


  1. Fantastic revelations about a fascinating cartoonist-artist! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. All the WiggleMuch comics are available online now for the first time ever