‘Trouser-wearing, French-speaking, home-wrecking Victorian cartoonist Marie Duval appears to have drawn a new comic book – ‘Drawing in Drag…’ But has she?
Looking more closely, ‘Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval’ is the latest comic book from celebrated artist, writer and cartoonist Simon Grennan, performing as Duval, as though the cartoonist and actress had been revived in the twenty-first century.
Commissioned earlier in this year by publisher Book Works, for an artist’s residency in Manchester’s Chetham’s Library, Grennan stumbled upon a secret. In the Library is an 1877 novel, The Story of a Honeymoon, written and illustrated by Charles Ross and Ambrose Clarke. For the first time, Grennan identified Clarke as a male pseudonym of one Isabelle de Tessier, better known as Marie Duval.
Known for her slapstick comedic drawing style and one of only a handful of women cartoonists in Victorian periodical publishing, Duval’s work was habitually disguised, emasculated, overwritten and stolen. After her death, her male collaborators took the opportunity to erase her from history. They almost succeeded. Recently, Grennan has been instrumental in bringing Duval’s work back to public view.
In Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval, Grennan adopts ‘Marie Duval’ as a pseudonym, reviving her reckless style to explore, like Duval, the contemporary world of modern urban leisure. The book affectionately delights in sexual ambiguity and identity shifts, exposing social norms and the vicissitudes of entertainment by performing, producing and presenting drawings in drag.