Gonzo Illustrator Ralph Steadman Draws the American Presidents, from Nixon to Trump

In a 2012 inter­view with Nation­al Pub­lic Radio, car­toon­ist Ralph Stead­man, best known for his col­lab­o­ra­tions with Gonzo jour­nal­ist Hunter S. Thomp­son, lament­ed the qual­i­ty of the can­di­dates in that year’s Pres­i­den­tial race:

The prob­lem is there are no Nixons around at the moment. That’s what we need — we need a real good Nixon to give some­thing for oth­er peo­ple to get their teeth into, to real­ly … loathe him, to become them­selves more effec­tive as oppo­si­tion lead­ers.

Alas, his prayers have been answered.

Stead­man, who has brought his inky sen­si­bil­i­ties to bear on such works as Ani­mal Farm and Alice in Won­der­land, has a new Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to add to the col­lec­tion he dis­cussed sev­er­al years ago, in the video above.

Steadman’s pen was the sword that ren­dered Ger­ald Ford as a scare­crow, Ronald Rea­gan as a vam­pire, and George W. Bush as a mon­key in a cage of his own mak­ing.

Barack Oba­ma, one of the can­di­dates in that com­par­a­tive­ly bland 2012 elec­tion, is depict­ed as a tena­cious, slen­der vine, strain­ing ever upward.

Jim­my Carter, some­what less benign­ly, is a pup­py eager­ly fetch­ing a stick with which to par­don Nixon, the Welsh cartoonist’s dark muse, first encoun­tered when he accom­pa­nied Thomp­son on the road trip that yield­ed Fear and Loathing: On the Cam­paign Trail ’72.

And now…

Don­ald Trump has giv­en Stead­man rea­son to come out fight­ing. With luck, he’ll stay out as long as his ser­vices are required. The above por­trait, titled “Porky Pie,” was sent, unso­licit­ed, to Ger­ry Brakus, an edi­tor of the New States­man, who pub­lished it on Decem­ber 17, 2015.

At the time, Stead­man had no rea­son to believe the man he’d anthro­po­mor­phized as a human pig hybrid, squeezed into bloody flag-print under­pants, would become the 45th pres­i­dent:

Trump is unthink­able. A thug and a moles­ter. Who wants him?

The por­trait’s hideous­ness speaks vol­umes, but it’s also worth look­ing beyond the obvi­ous-seem­ing inspi­ra­tion for the title to a ref­er­ence few Amer­i­cans would get. “Pork pie”—or porky—is Cock­ney rhyming slang for “a lie.”

See a gallery of Steadman’s por­traits of Amer­i­can pres­i­dents on his web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ralph Steadman’s Sur­re­al­ist Illus­tra­tions of George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm (1995)

How Hunter S. Thomp­son — and Psilo­cy­bin — Influ­enced the Art of Ralph Stead­man, Cre­at­ing the “Gonzo” Style

Break­ing Bad Illus­trat­ed by Gonzo Artist Ralph Stead­man

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • chris kk says:

    Ford not Carter par­doned Nixon. Pret­ty big fac­tu­al error although the art is com­pelling.

  • Randy says:

    What does it com­pel you to do?

  • Steve Hart says:

    Like most wacko Illus­tra­tors dur­ing August, who’re hun­gry because all the elite ultra-lib­er­al intel­li­gentsia mag­a­zine & media heads are off on vaca­tion, and ADs won’t hire over­priced artists. Too much time on his hands so he whines…whaaa.

  • Moira Faulds (aka Suzanne Higgins) says:

    What are all you whin­ing about? Ralph Stead­man is pure genius! Just like he always has been! See­ing his illus­tra­tion of Trump just made my entire day. Thank you Mr Stead­man. Keep up the good work. Your fan (and a fan of Hunter’s, back in the day) Curi­ous Mo XO

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.