Perhaps Lebanon’s most famous political cartoonist, Pierre Sadek passed away in 2013 at the age of 75. Sadek was an outspoken defender of freedom of expression and champion of the ordinary Lebanese citizen, and his satirical cartoons criticised politicians from all parties. For more than 45 years, including during the Lebanese Civil War, he worked prolifically for local publications, as well as collaborating with international newspapers including the Washington Post.
In Picturing History, the Sursock Museum pays tribute to Sadek and his work, which provides a cutting and unique insight into five decades of Lebanese and regional history, covering social and political turmoil and frequent violence. Using simple yet powerful imagery, Sadek conveyed the flaws and strengths of leaders whose faces were beamed around the world, and satirised and immortalised events that impacted a generation.
The museum is collaborating with the Pierre Sadek Foundation, established in 2013, which has provided a wide range of his work dating from the late 1950s until his death. In 1986, Sadek became the first Lebanese caricaturist to feature his work on TV, and the exhibition includes examples of both his print and broadcast work. His images, the museum claims, “at times served history and sometimes helped to make it.” Certainly, seeing such a large body of his work in one place demonstrates his rare ability to consistently capture world-changing events in a single powerful image. Artistic merit aside, anyone interested in regional history will find this a fascinating and illuminating show.
The show is on at Sursock Museum until April 30.
Featured image: Syrian guardianship attempts to control the legitimate Lebanese press. Al-‘Amal newspaper, 1978. Pierre Sadek Foundation collection.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Curriculum Vitae #44, page 22.