The exhibition on the work of the legendary cartoonist Carl Barks at the Helsinki City Art Museum’s Tennis Palace comprised some 70 lithograph prints of Barks’ duck paintings, two original paintings and also drawings. The works belong to the unique collection of Marko Leppälä from Helsinki.
Carl Barks made his career first at the Disney studios and, from 1942, as a cartoonist for Western Publishing which had a license to publish Disney comics. In the early 1940s Donald Duck was still a lazy, incoherently quacking hothead. Barks turned Donald Duck into world’s most famous ”feathered animal” and gave him the personality we know so well. ”He is everything, he is everybody; he makes the same mistakes that we all make. He is sometimes a villain, and he is often a real good guy, and at all times he is just a blundering person like the average human being”, Barks has said. He also created Donald a place to live – Duckburg – and other characters to accompany him, including Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose, the Beagle Boys, Magica de Spell, and the Junior Woodchucks.
Carl Barks began to paint ducks only after retiring in 1966. Illegal print copies of his colourful and action-packed paintings soon began to appear on the market, and in 1976 Disney denied Barks the use of its characters. Barks took up other motifs: Western images, fairy-tale kings and other than Disney ducks. He regained permission to use Disney characters in 1982 when the publishing company Another Rainbow and Disney began to print signed and numbered lithographies of Barks’ paintings. The originals were by then much too expensive for ordinary fans. Today, their price has risen so high that they will undoubtedly remain in the private collections of American millionaires.
These large Duck lithographs are very high quality. They tell irresistible stories that are genuinely humane, full of warm humour and gentle satire. The ducks make us laugh at ourselves, our stinginess and at our entire humanness – or duckness. Carl Barks died in summer 2000 – just short of a year before his 100th birthday. He continued to work to the very last.
For the Finnish Donald Duck magazine – Aku Ankka – 2001 is a special year as it celebrates its 50th anniversary in Finland. Today, it is every bit as popular as it was 50 years ago.