Briscoe Center Opens “Always Hitting a Nerve,” Exhibit of Ben Sargent’s Cartoons

April 18, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — "Always Hitting a Nerve: Editorial Cartoons by Ben Sargent," a retrospective exhibit of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning Austin American-Statesman cartoonist's 35-year career, opens April 20 at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The exhibit is drawn from the Ben Sargent Collection, which Sargent and the Austin American Statesman donated to the Briscoe Center.

The exhibit is on display from April 20 through Aug. 31, at the Briscoe Center's Research and Collections Division in Sid Richardson Hall, Unit 2.

Sargent drew more than 8,000 editorial cartoons during his tenure at the Austin American-Statesman. He attracted a devoted and large following of readers, who enjoyed his unique ability to lampoon state officials and political leaders. No topic escaped his attention, from the Texas legislature to the First Amendment, from the U.S. presidency to international conflicts.

"Ben Sargent is a giant of editorial cartooning," said historian H.W. Brands. "Sargent developed a visual style that was instantly recognizable. His stock characters — the bloated banker, the jaded bureaucrat, the waif representing the public — appropriately ooze greed, insensitivity and pathos. Sargent's painstaking attention to detail contrasts sharply with the primitivism that increasingly passed for cartoon art during the late 20th century."

"The Ben Sargent Collection is an outstanding addition to the Briscoe Center's archive documenting the history of the U.S. news media," said Dr. Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "Our archive documents every aspect of the news business in United States. Traditionally, editorial cartoons have played a key role in the effort to convey important editorial opinions in a powerful and easily understood manner. Ben Sargent's prize-winning work is a noteworthy example of this journalistic tradition."

Born in Amarillo in 1948 as a sixth-generation Texan, Sargent grew up in a newspaper family. He studied journalism while in high school and college. At The University of Texas at Austin, Sargent was editorial page editor for the Daily Texan. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with honors in 1970.

Exhibit hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information on hours and location, call 512-495-4518.

For more information, contact: Erin Purdy, Center for American History, 512 495 4692.