Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast


Nationality: American

Birth Place: Landau (Niederbayern, Bavaria, Germany)

Thomas Nast was an American artist known for his weekly political cartoons attacking New York's Tammany Hall, slavery during the Civil War, and Reconstruction politics. His sketches helped popularize the images of a rotund, jolly Santa Claus, as well as the donkey now associated with the Democratic Party.

Born September 27, 1840 in Baden, Germany, Nast arrived as an immigrant in New York at the age of six. Though Nast never excelled at academics, his talent at art became apparent from an early age. He pursued artistic study at the National Academy of Design, becoming a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper at the age of 15. When he was 18, Nast joined Harper's Weekly.

Nast was a staunch supporter of the Union during the American Civil War. His drawing board at Harper's Weekly allowed him a platform to denounce slavery. President Abraham Lincoln named him the Union's “best recruiting sergeant” due to the popularity and broad reach of Nast's cartoons. “After the Battle”(1862) decried Northerners who chose not to oppose the war; “Emancipation” (1863) exposed the horrors of slavery and the immediate need for its abolition.

Nast's cartoons continued their political attacks during Reconstruction. Southerners were portrayed as vile and exploitative oppressors of powerless blacks, and President Andrew Johnson was shown as an autocratic demagogue.

The work of Thomas Nast had a profound impact on the political machines of the 1870s. “Boss” Tweed, the leader of the New York Tammany Hall machine, was a chief target. The 1871 cartoons “Tammany Tiger Loose” and “Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to Blow Over” were a profound impetus on the machine's downfall. “Boss” Tweed fled the country, and his subsequent identification and arrest in 1876 are attributed to Nast's caricatures.

Nast's final cartoon in Harper's appeared in 1886. He left the company due to fundamental disagreements with its editors. Although Nast did find work with other journals, his artistic contributions became ever more infrequent. Nast had earlier lost most of his savings when the brokerage house of Grant and Ward failed, and thereafter became destitute. In 1902, Nast was appointed general counsel to Ecuador. He contracted yellow fever while in Ecuador, and died on December 7, 1902.

While Nast's work can also be found in oil and book illustrations, he is best known for his incisive political cartoons and merciless caricatures. In addition to the Democratic donkey and Santa Claus, Nast popularized the image of Tammany Hall's tiger and the Republican Party's elephant. Nast's insightful work changed the landscape of art and of American history.


Thomas Nast Original Art Values Sold at Auction

Item Realized
Thomas Nast "Tammany Hall" Editorial Cartoon Original Art (Harper's Weekly, 1886)
Thomas Nast "Tammany Hall" Editorial Cartoon Original Art (Harper's Weekly, 1886)....
Lot 92054
Auction 7066
Saturday, November 17, 2012
THOMAS NAST (American, 1840-1902) Free Smoke Pen on paper 11.5 x 10.5 in. Signed lower right
THOMAS NAST (American, 1840-1902)Free SmokePen on paper11.5 x 10.5 in.Signed lower right...
Lot 78223
Auction 5090
Friday, March 2, 2012
THOMAS NAST (American, 1840-1902) Mayor with Angry Mob Pen and ink on paper 10.5 x 8 in. Signed lower left
THOMAS NAST (American, 1840-1902)Mayor with Angry MobPen and ink on paper10.5 x 8 in.Signed lower left...
Lot 78224
Auction 5090
Friday, March 2, 2012
Thomas Nast Harper's Weekly Single-Panel Editorial Comic Strip Original Art dated 9-12-85 (Harper & Bros., 1885)...
Thomas Nast Harper's Weekly Single-Panel Editorial Comic Strip Original Art dated 9-12-85 (Harper & Bros., 1885)....
Lot 13112
Auction 121752
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Thomas Nast - Editorial Comic Strip Original Art (1889)
Thomas Nast - Editorial Comic Strip Original Art (1889)....
Lot 94216
Auction 7139
Saturday, August 6, 2016

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PLEASE NOTE: All prices realized reflect the final hammer price PLUS the buyer's premium in auctions that charge a buyer's premium. Each item has a notation at the top of the listing indicating whether that lot included a buyer's premium. All information listed is intended to be as accurate as possible, but errors are possible. Please use this guide carefully and inform us of any inaccuracies.

Buy Thomas Nast

ItemCurrent Bid or Price
Thomas Nast Harper's Weekly Cover Original Art (Harper & Bros., 1882).... (1)
Thomas Nast Harper's Weekly Cover Original Art (Harper & Bros., 1882).... (1)

Auction 7177
Saturday, February 24, 2018

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