Archive for the ‘cartoons’ Category

Blighty for the troops in the Great War

August 22, 2014
'Water Babies' Christmas 1919 issue of Blighty magazine

‘Water Babies’ Christmas 1919 issue of Blighty, a free magazine for Britain’s armed forces

This cover for the Christmas 1919 issue of Blighty magazine looks to have been inspired by Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, which was already regarded as a classic – and had been published in two editions since the start of the First World War. Like so many books, Kingsley’s was first published as a serial in Macmillan’s Magazine (1862-63).

Among the illustrators for the various editions of the book were Noel Paton (first book edition of 1863), Linley Sambourne (1885), Warwick Goble (1909), W. Heath Robinson (1915) and Jessie Willcox Smith (1916), all of whom were established magazine illustrators. The artwork on the cover here was not credited.

Blighty magazine was an inspired idea and was produced solely for Britain’s fighting forces under the control of the Committee of Blighty from 40 Fleet Street. It was ‘a budget of humour from home’ sent free to the forces with a publishing strategy loosely based on the popular humorous titles of the day such as Punch and London Opinion. Many of their contributors drew or wrote for issues, but the magazine also encouraged contributions from men fighting at the front.

It was funded by advertising along with a special enlarged issue with a colour cover produced for sale at a shilling each Christmas and summer. The 1916 Christmas issue stated: ‘Every copy sold sends three to the trenches.’ This Xmas Home Number came out after the war had ended, of course, and makes no mention of free copies for the troops, because it had been turned into a commercial operation. Though still published from the same Fleet St address, it was now run by The Blighty Publishing and printing had been switched from Walbrook & Co in Whitefriars to George Berridge & Co in Upper Thames St.

A half page at the back of the magazine encourages people to buy a magazine that was ‘favourite reading’ for the armed services. The copy reads:

‘The paper is now on sale to the public. It is full of pictures and stories by the best humorous artists and writers, amongst whom are many men who sent their first contributions from the mud of Flanders, the sands of Mesopotamia, or the stormy waters of the North Sea … It was sent to you in the trenches. Now you can buy it at the shops and bookstalls. All Old Service Readers should be Civilian Readers now.’

Among the illustrators were Punch artist Ricardo Brook, Glossop, Dyke White, US ‘Gibson Girl’ artist C. Dana Gibson, Horace Gaffron (who had fought with the Gordon Highlanders and drew Good Housekeeping covers in the 1930s) and Arthur Ferrier (one of the most popular cartoonists of the 1940s and 50s).

Yet the strategy did not work, and the title closed within a year. However, Blighty was resurrected for the Second World War, again with official support as a free weekly for the troops. When hostilities ended, it was again turned into a men’s humorous weekly, this time successfully. It was rebranded as Parade in 1960 but collapsed as both advertising and readership were lost from all the weeklies to television and Sunday supplements, and became a top-shelf title.

 

AA Milne, Alfred Leete and St Bride’s Berlud mystery

August 18, 2014
Alfred Leete's blood-stained staircase at St Bride's Printing Library

Berlud! Alfred Leete and the curious case of the blood-stained staircase at St Bride’s Printing Library. Is it a joke based on an early play by Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne?

St Bride’s Printing Library has done a blog item – The curious case of the blood-stained staircase – about this Alfred Leete artwork they’ve discovered. They write:

‘… a blood-stained staircase in front of a dark green door with eyes peering through the letter box. Elsewhere in the image, a policeman stares in shock, or perhaps horror at the staircase. Adding confusion to possible interpretations is the paint can sitting at the bottom right corner of the door, which begs the question as to whether it is really blood at all. The word Berlud! is printed at the top of the frame’

There’s another curious detail – the copper’s bloodless, claw-like hands. Such a contrast against the ruddy face. They look like the hands of the vampire in Nosferatu, the 1922 German horror film. The word Berlud dates to June 1922 – it was in the title of an early play by AA Milne, Berlud, Unlimited. Also in April that year, the first murder mystery by the man who would go on to write Winnie the Pooh had been published, The Red House Mystery. It’s certainly possible the two men knew each other – in 1906 Milne was made assistant editor on Punch, which published Leete’s cartoons (though his Kitchener ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster was first published as a 1914 cover for a Punch rival, London Opinion). They were the same age and both served in the first world war.

I suspect this wasn’t a poster but the artwork for a whole page illustration of the sort Leete did for The Tatler. It could well have been a cartoon for the theatre pages of the society weekly. The Red House Mystery sold well and Milne was certainly making a name for himself with the literary public.

The letterbox and its peering eyes brought to mind the advertising flyer below from 1902. This letterpress flyer for the weekly Pictorial Magazine used spot colour to promote its latest serial, ‘The House with the Scarlet Knocker’, and carried an excerpt from the tale on the back. Could this 1902 image have sparked Alfred Leete’s imagination?

A letterpress flyer for the latest serial in Pictorial Magazine - could this 1902 image have sparked Alfred Leete's imagination?

A letterpress flyer for the latest serial in Pictorial Magazine – could this 1902 image have sparked Alfred Leete’s imagination?

 

 

 

 

Ravages of War in Kaiser Wilhelm’s face

July 15, 2014

Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm - The Ravager

Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, with his moustache and military uniform, at the start of World War I. He is described as ‘The Ravager’

This postcard depicts Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, with his flamboyant moustache and military uniform, at the start of World War I. He is described as ‘The Ravager’ and there appearss to be a tear falling from the right eye. It is when the card is turned upside down that ‘The Ravages of War’ he was responsible for are made clear.

The postcard turned upside down reveals the 'Ravages of War'

The postcard turned upside down reveals the ‘Ravages of War’ with the moustache becoming an imperial eagle

His nose and moustache become an eagle with a crown above its head – the German imperial symbol – atop a marble column. The falling tear has become a lion – a symbol for Britain – which is trying to climb the column to reach the eagle. And the lower eyelashes now spell out the names of the first Belgian cities that fell to the Germans – Liège and Namur.

The eyelashes spell out  Liège and Namur

The eyelashes spell out the names of the first Belgian cities that fell to the Germans – Liège and Namur

Both cities had been ringed with forts by 1892 and the Battle for Liège was the first engagement of the war. It began on 5 August 1914 and lasted until 16 August when the last fort surrendered. The attack on Belgium drew the British into the war. German troops then turned their attention to the forts around Namur on 20 August, bombarding them with heavy artillery, including the massive Big Bertha (a 420mm siege howitzer). Belgian forces withdrew and the city was evacuated and left to the attackers on 23 August. Magazines at the time such Punch referred to the Belgiums as steadfast in standing up to the Germans but ultimately being flattened by its might – ‘plucky little Belgium‘.

So the card was probably produced in the autumn of 1914. Like Alfred Leete’s famous Your Country Needs You cover from London Opinion, it was a visceral reaction to the war.

Turning back to the card, the detail on the Kaiser’s tunic portrays Belgian troops in front of a church facing cannon fire. One side of the collar depicts a German soldier bayoneting a mother in front of her child. The other side shows a line of troops firing on a fleeing family. The chinstrap depicts three lions.

The helmet shows two French armies with a smaller British force. The helmet’s ‘dome’ turns into howitzers firing at a dove that is falling from the sky, with an explosion to one side and a burning house on the other.

Deatail of moustache as imperial eagle

The nose and moustache become a German imperial eagle on a column, which a British lion is trying to climb. Part of the helmet shows British and French troops

The card was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (possibly from Britain’s first mass-producer of postcards, E.T.W. Dennis) and has an unclear signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup.

Postcard was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (probably from Britain’s first mass-producer of postcards, E.T.W. Dennis) and has an unclear signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup

Postcard was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (possibly from Britain’s first big postcard printer, E.T.W. Dennis) and has a signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup

Most British magazines and postcards did not show out-and-out brutality, instead hinting at illegal actions with slogans such as ‘Remember Belgium’ but French magazines certainly did.

Back of the Kaiser Ravages of War postcard with the 'Dainty series' label

Back of the Kaiser Ravages of War postcard with the ‘Dainty’ series label on the left

Kitchener – this is not a poster!

May 29, 2014
Daily Mail's Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article

Daily Mail’s Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article that mistakenly identifies a poster as the original London Opinion cover

Whatever the faults of the Daily Mail, it exhibits a sense of history in the logo it carries on its ‘answers to readers questions’ page. The logo is based on the original title for the magazine that founded the Daily Mail dynasty back in 1888: Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun, founded by Alfred Harmsworth.

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail - based on a magazine title from the 1880s

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail – based on a magazine title from the 1880s

As Answers, this became a massive success, building on the pioneering George Newnes’s Tit-Bits, for which Harmsworth had worked, to help establish British magazines as the first truly mass media. Answers claimed to answer questions sent in by readers directly by post, and those of general interest were published. Answers was a such a success that it was the foundation of a magazine and newspaper empire, the likes of which the world had never seen. Alfred and his brother Harold went on to found both the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, then buy up both the Sunday Observer and the Times and become lords Northcliffe and Rothermere. Alongside the newspapers, the Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press (later Fleetway) became the largest periodical publishing empire in the world. Viscount Rothermere rules the roost at today’s descendant, the Daily Mail & General Trust.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover – this is NOT a poster!

So it’s no surprise that the paper is running a series to mark World War One, including an 80-page souvenir issue of its listings section, Event. Pride of place in the May 4 edition was a feature by the brilliant Ralph Steadman, whose father fought in that war and was injured three times. Steadman interprets Alfred Leete’s famous Kitchener image and the article make reference  to its original appearance as a London Opinion cover – but then shows one of the early London Opinion posters in the centre of the spread rather than the magazine cover!

The error adds to half a century of no less an august body than the Imperial War Museum (which was given the artwork by Leete) getting it wrong; Picture Post using the artwork in 1940 and again referring to it only a poster; and biographers such as  Philip Magnus adding to the confusion. Even the British Library captions the cover as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. To cap it all, the Royal Mint makes no reference to Leete even as it copies his artwork for a commemorative coin!

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

Louis Wain – cats, frogs and his sister

May 27, 2014
Felecie Wain illustration from Home Notes - Louis Wain's mother

Anthropomorphised frogs from Home Notes by Felecie Wain – Louis Wain’s sister

Louis Wain became famous to Victorians for his humanlike – anthropomorphised – animal drawings, particularly cats, which were widely published, as magazine illustrations, books and cards. He was ‘the man who drew cats’. The image here is from a children’s page in C. Arthur Pearson’s popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899, at a time when the prodigious Wain contributed at least a drawing an issue to this magazine alone. However, it is signed ‘Felecie Wain’, Louis Wain’s sister, who was also known as ‘Felice’.

Frog tableaux were popular at the time and Dickens had a small statue of sword-fighting frogs on his desk at his Gad’s Hill home when he died.

According to a Margate newsletter, Wain moved to the neighbouring seaside town of Westgate in 1894 with his four sisters and mother at the suggestion of Sir William Ingram, who lived there and owned Illustrated London News (founded by his father in 1842). Wain’s wife had recently died and Ingram also owned Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, where Wain had worked since 1882. The newsletter shows photographs of Wain’s homes and the graves of both his mother and Felecie.

The image below is a drunken Wain cat held by the V&A Museum.

Louis Wain cat out on the razzle

Louis Wain’s ‘Hallo there! We won’t go home till morning’ showing a cat out on the razzle

Tom Browne: every dot counts

April 21, 2014
browne_golferfull500

RULES AND ETIQUETTE OF GOLF: A ball lying in the fork of a tree must be played, or the player will lose a stroke – Tom Browne cartoon for the Tatler

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.

Tom Browne drawing detail

Tom Browne’s drawing show incredible attention to detail; he could do so much with so little

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collectors come out for £2,700 Oz on eBay

March 31, 2014

 

Oz magazine first issue

Oz magazine first issue January 1967

Underground magazine Oz is one of the most collectable titles – and proved the point in March when half-a-dozen bidders took their offers up from the £999 starting price to £2,728 in just nine bids. The set included all 48 issues ‘in exceptional condition’ of a magazine that sparked the 1972 Oz trial and introduced Felix Dennis to the magazine world.

A copy of the Oz first issue on its own went for £895 – well above the £650 one sold for back in 2007. Several others issues fetched up to £220.

Another title that attracts collectors is trendy cycling title Rouleur, with a set of the first 43 issues selling for £1000 as a buy-it-now.

Part works aren’t usually big sellers but a James Bond collection with models cars fetched £691. Buying it new would have cost £7.99 x 132, more than £1000.

 

Strand magazine from April 1904 with Sherlock Holmes

Strand magazine from April 1904 with Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes in the Strand is a long-standing attraction for collectors and a set of the first seven volumes of the magazine fetched £545. Mind you, unbound copies fetch far more, and this single issue of the April 1904 Strand with a Holmes story fetched £443.

The first 50 issues of the Face were priced at £500 and the seller took an undisclosed offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis Wain – cats, frogs and his sister

March 27, 2014
Felecie Wain illustration from Home Notes - Louis Wain's mother

Anthropomorphised frogs from Home Notes by Felecie Wain – Louis Wain’s sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis Wain became famous to Victorians for his humanlike – anthropomorphised – animal drawings, particularly cats, which were widely published, as magazine illustrations, books and cards. He was ‘the man who drew cats’. The image above is from a children’s page in C. Arthur Pearson’s popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899, at a time when the prodigious Wain contributed at least a drawing an issue to this magazine alone. However, it is by ‘Felecie Wain’, Louis Wain’s sister, who was also known as ‘Felice’.

Frog tableaux were popular at the time and Dickens had a small statue of sword-fighting frogs on his desk as Gad’s Hill when he died.

According to a Margate newsletter, Wain moved to the neighbouring seaside town of Westgate in 1894 with his four sisters and mother at the suggestion of Sir William Ingram, who lived there and owned Illustrated London News (founded by his father in 1842). Wain’s wife had recently died and Ingram also owned Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, where Wain had worked since 1882. The newsletter shows photographs of Wain’s homes and the graves of both his mother and Felecie.

The image below is a drunken Wain cat held by the V&A Museum.

Louis Wain cat out on the razzle

Louis Wain’s ‘Hallo there! We won’t go home till morning’ showing a cat out on the razzle

 

 

Louis Wain, schizophrenia and cats’ eyes

March 22, 2014
Louis Wain's schizophrenic cats eyes from Home Notes 1899

Louis Wain’s schizophrenic cats eyes from Home Notes 1899

Louis Wain was famous to Victorians as ‘the man who drew cats’. There is a theory that Wain had schizophrenia and that the development of the illness can be seen in his cat drawings. It was not until 1924 that his sisters had him committed to a mental hospital, but this rarely seen sketch from the popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899 shows that he had a thing about cats’ eyes even at the height of his powers.

Eagles, comics and magazines at the V&A’s NAL

May 21, 2012

Comics blog Cor Blimey! has visited the Eagle-era comics exhibition at the V&A and his review starts off cool but warms up.

The Eagle exhibition was mounted by Marc Ward of the National Art Library, which is housed at the V&A – but, despite its size, is easy to miss! The NAL has a very easy to search catalogue – you can just search on periodical names for example – which is useful not only for planning what to see but also for checking dates, publisher (even if they do not have a particular item).

They have complete runs of magazine such as Vogue and while it’s biased towards fashion and design titles, has issues across a range of areas, including international titles It’s a reference only collection but worth becoming a reader if they’ve got what you want.

As an example, I was in there a few weeks ago to look at Dazed & Confused. I could check what the NAL holds and a search on the main V&A website showed that Nick Knight had donated a selection of his photographs and I could look at them too – including prints of Aimee Mullins from the Fashion-Able issue. Tip: search on the surname. And, of course, the NAL holds a copy of last year’s Dazed history published by Rizzoli by Jefferson Hack with Kate Moss on the cover.


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