The ability of political cartoonists to point out the absurdity of the news with a beautiful line and a pithy comment never ceases to amaze and they’ve been doing it for over 200 years as Comedy & Commentary at Mottisfont Abbey shows. 

Although the exhibition purports to showcase contemporary British political cartoonists, in fact the range is quite limited. While it is exciting to see the original artwork of such greats as Matt of the Daily Telegraph, Peter Brookes of The Times and Ed McLachan of The Oldie, there is no space for those giants Steve Bell and Gerald Scarfe or many others. This feels like a private collection rather than a comprehensive range.

Fortunately works from the past, there to give context to today’s cartoonists, more than make up for the paucity of modern examples. 

You can see ‘pocket’ cartoonists Mark Boxer (Marc) and the legendary Osbert Lancaster who set the template for the front page cartoons we enjoy today. The simplicity of line that they use to convey character and emotion is extraordinary.

There are two works by possibly the greatest of all twentieth century political cartoonists, David Low. They may not be his greatest but his serious intent and dynamic drawing are head and shoulders above the excessive number of Heath Robinson contraptions which have long lost their power to amuse. 

It is a thrill to discover work by two of the earliest political cartoonists James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson. Not only do the drawings skewer their political targets, they are beautiful works of art.

Comedy & Commentary continues at Mottisfont Abbey until 19 April 2020.

Paul Seven Lewis is a freelance reviewer. He reviews theatre on his YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews and on his website