Historic Sketches From Famous Court Cases

The impeachment trial of President Trump inspired many artists to express themselves in various genres. Here, we explore sketches, cartoons, and more.

Feb 24, 2020By Kaylee Randall
Sketch by Art Lein 
Sketch by Art Lein

When you think of famous court cases, you probably imagine the detailed sketches from artists whose job it is to depict what’s going on for everyone on the outside. In most political court cases, cameras aren’t allowed and the proceedings are mostly private. These sketches are often our only view of the happenings in the courtroom.

Trump’s impeachment trial was all over the news and you’ve surely heard a lot about the ordeal. But what interests us is the art to come out of the trial, regardless of its outcome.

Here, we’ll explore the work produced by the sketch artist who was in the courtroom as well as art collaborations and satire that emerged from the event. There’s nothing like political upheaval to inspire artists to make a statement.

Perspectives of a Sketch Artist

Trump’s impeachment trial took place in the Senate chamber, where, like most courtrooms, photos and videos are strictly prohibited, apart from C-SPAN’s feed. However, Art Lien is a sketch artist and gives us some insight into the mood and activity on the Senate floor.

Lien primarily covers Supreme Court trials and has done so since 1976. These sketches rounded out with watercolor will become historic artifacts to represent this moment in American politics, just as Freda Reiter’s sketches from Watergate are looked back on with interest now.

Pastel drawing by Frieda Reiter, a recreation of 1973 conversation, drawn to accompany television playback of Nixon White House tapes during the 1974 trial 
Pastel drawing by Frieda Reiter, a recreation of 1973 conversation, drawn to accompany television playback of Nixon White House tapes during the 1974 trial

Emotions ran high as the leaders of our government testified for or against President Trump with some of the most intriguing events captured on paper by Lein.

On February 4, Senators took turns announcing their positions on Trump’s impeachment before Wednesday’s final voting took place. But, these speeches were not required, leaving most of the Senate floor wide open.

The next day, Mitt Romney crossed party lines, voting to convict Trump of abuse of power. Then, in a closing statement, Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell called for a swift acquittal just before voting commenced. Trump was acquitted that afternoon.

Senator Mitt Romney, sketch by Art Lien 
Senator Mitt Romney, sketch by Art Lien

Lien was able to capture the altogether tense yet almost resigned attitude in the chamber. It seems as though lawmakers were more interested in attending Trump’s State of the Union speech that was planned for later that day- some staking out a spot nearly seven hours beforehand.

Jenny Holzer’s Skateboards

In collaboration with The Skateroom, Jenny Holzer has marked Trump’s impeachment trial by inscribing the word “impeach” on limited edition skateboards – 25 of which were made of marble and 500 made of wood.

Impeach, Jenny Holzer, marble skateboard deck 
Impeach, Jenny Holzer, marble skateboard deck

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The work aims to combine culture, fine arts, and politics with the artist’s royalties being donated to two U.S.-based non-profit organizations, Vote.org and Change the Ref.

Previously, The Skateroom worked with Holzer to make aluminum skateboards to raise money for AIDS awareness and overall $23,100 was donated to the NYC AIDS Memorial. So, only time will tell how much money this new collaboration will raise.

Sold on the HighSnobiety website store, the marble skateboards were selling for $10,000 apiece while the wooden ones were $500 each. Both versions were completely sold out in a matter of days.

Impeach, Jenny Holzer, wooden skateboard deck 
Impeach, Jenny Holzer, wooden skateboard deck

In her statement about the skateboards, Holzer said: “Some moments should never be forgotten, some moments deserve to be set in stone. Make America Righteous Again.”

Classic New Yorker Cartoons

As far as satire is concerned, the New Yorker is top-notch. Their famous cartoons are an illustrator’s dream and it’s no surprise that President Trump’s impeachment trial served as great material for the magazine’s artists.

Illustration by Peter Kuper for the New Yorker, 1/24/2020 
Illustration by Peter Kuper for the New Yorker, 1/24/2020

These drawings are always up for interpretation but, generally, they’re skeptical and full of humor. And since the New Yorker is always up on the times and commenting on what’s popular or trending, it’s a fantastic and interesting way to look back on the world during huge historical events.

From poking fun at the President’s lawyers to highlighting what seems like erratic behavior in the Oval Office, there’s hardly a line that the New Yorker’s cartoonists won’t cross.

“Impeachment? No, he’s upset that he didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize.” Illustration by Peter Kuper for the New Yorker, 10/11/2019
“Impeachment? No, he’s upset that he didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize.” Illustration by Peter Kuper for the New Yorker, 10/11/2019

Although the New Yorker is widely respected for their political cartoons, other publications around the country also created some satirical artwork surrounding Trump’s impeachment trial.

USA Today has published its fair share of cartoons concerning Trump’s impeachment inquiry, trial, and subsequent acquittal. While smaller newspapers like the Pensacola News Journal of Pensacola, Florida also contributed to the artistic satire about the events as they unfolded.

Illustration by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal 
Illustration by Andy Marlette for the Pensacola News Journal

Whether we realize it or not, we rely heavily on artists of all genres to help tell our stories. We use music, films, paintings, and political cartoons to not only shape our everyday lives, but also as a way to explore history.

Regardless of your political opinions or how you feel about the result of President Trump’s impeachment trial, it’s still amazing that the artwork to come out of it will live on for future generations.



Author Image

By Kaylee RandallKaylee Randall is a contributing writer, originally from Florida. who is deeply interested and invested in the arts. She lives in Australia and writes about health, fitness, art, and entertainment while sharing her own stories of transition on her personal blog.