Tom Browne was one of the best black and white artists working the the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. He went out to work at the age of 11 as an errand boy in Nottingham and became apprentice to a lithographic printer where he began to do illustration jobs on the side.
At the age of 21, he moved to Fleet Street and established his reputation with the Weary Willie and Tired Tim cartoon for Harmsworth’s Illustrated Chips from May 1896. His fat and thin tramps carried on into the 1950s (in the hands of other illustrators) and no doubt had a hand in triggering later generations of tramp pairings, such as Laurel & Hardy (first film together in 1921), Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot (1953) and television’s Bootsie and Snudge (1963).
It’s the details in Browne’s work that count and took him out of cheap comics into the society weeklies such as Punch and Tatler and made him such a hit in the US, in papers such as the New York Times. The Tatler cartoon here is a classic example.
Consider the faces on the dynamic duo hauling up the tubby golfer: just a couple of dots for eyes and a few lines for the features. Yet, look closely and you can immediately tell which way they are looking – one at the golfer and the other at the reader.
Truly, every dot counts.