“Joe Kennedy says…” (January 24, 1941)
by Mischa Richter (1910-2001)
11 x 14 in., ink and wash on paper
Mischa Richter (1910-2001) was a well-known New Yorker, King Features, and PM newspaper cartoonist who worked for the Communist Party’s literary journal “New Masses” in the late 1930 and early 1940s, becoming its art editor in the 1940s.
Just before that time, he worked in the WPA art project as a mural painter in New York. He then turned to cartooning, doing editorial and humorous cartoons for the daily newspaper, PM, and then becoming art editor for the New Masses.
The New Masses (1926–1948) was an American Marxist magazine closely associated with the Communist Party in the US. It succeeded The Masses (1912—1917) and later merged into Masses & Mainstream (1948—1963). With the coming of the Great Depression in 1929, America became more receptive to ideas from the political left and the New Masses became highly influential in intellectual circles. The magazine has been called “the principal organ of the American cultural left” from 1926 onwards.
In 1941 Richter began his longtime affiliation with the New Yorker, as well as producing daily panels, “Strictly Richter” and “Bugs Baer” for King Features. In the 1970s and 1980s, Richter did numerous drawings for the OpEd page of the New York Times.
Although he was FDR’s ambassador to the UK, Joe Kennedy was an isolationist and increasingly at odds with FDR as it became clear that the US would eventually become involved with the war in Europe. FDR kept Kennedy in the UK, out of reach of the public eye in the US.
Shortly after FDR’s re-election in November 1940, Kennedy was brought back to the US and was a public critic of the President. He was vocal about Churchill, FDR, and even Eleanor Roosevelt, and famously declared “democracy was finished in England.” The two men continue to fall out. In January 1941, FDR met one last time with Kennedy, dissuading him from publically opposing the lend-lease program.
The drawing depicts two P.O.Ws stating “Joe Kennedy says the people of Europe are asking what they’re fighting for.”