Caricatures in the Great War

Kitchener of Khartoum - caricature by Will Scott

‘K of K’ – Kitchener of Khartoum – caricature by Will Scott on the cover of Drawing magazine in February 1916

Will Scott was a new name to me when I saw this issue of Drawing magazine.  But this is a great caricature of a ship-like Kitchener, the War Lord who laid the foundations for Britain’s victory in the Great War with his foresight and call for volunteers.

The cover refers to an article by Scott about political satire, in which he is scathing in his views on British cartoons:

One cannot seriously suppose here is anyone who is really impressed by a British cartoon, or that there would be a single sigh of regret if our cartoonists ceased business tomorrow … We have not a single satirical journal worthy of the name.

Scott is a forgotten name now, but he did come to fame, though not as cartoonist or art critic. He turned to writing short stories for magazines and newspapers such as the Passing Show and Daily Express. His detective novels and stage plays were made into films in the 1930s and his The Cherrys series for children was popular right into the late 1960s. Scott is credited with more than 2,000 short stories, claimed as a record for the UK during his lifetime.

Back in 1916, the black and white artists at Punch and other titles must have been spitting at his remarks, though Scott goes on to credit the Tatler‘s HM Bateman – with his ‘exquisite sense of “silly”‘ and Will Dyson at the Daily Herald with breaking the mould. The website dedicated to Bateman describes how he ‘went mad on paper’ after suffering a breakdown:

Until this time conventional cartoons had been illustrated jokes – drawings with a few lines of text or dialogue underneath. Take away the dialogue and the drawing becomes meaningless, the joke lay in the words. From 1909 onwards Bateman drew no more illustrated jokes and so changed profoundly the art of the cartoon, invested it with a new freedom of line and expression. The drawing became funny in itself, self-explanatory. He made emotion the subject of his cartoons and the characters became actors expressing feeling, rather than illustrations to an idea.

The Cartoon Museum is organising an exhibition of his work later this year: H.M. Bateman: The Man Who Went Mad On Paper.

The Australian Dictionary of Biography credits Dyson’s work on the Daily Herald with changing Britain’s attitude towards the working man and capitalism:

Dyson hacked into the pomposity and humbug of pre-war England, championing the working man boldly and without reserve. ‘In British cartooning Before Dyson’, his friend Vance Palmer wrote, ‘the working man had been depicted as a pathetic figure, a depressed person lacking any human dignity. Will Dyson drew him young, militant, an image of hope with fist up-raised’… He represented Capital, Finance and Power as a gross figure of large paunch, top hat, spats and a cigar, the image of greed in a world of ignoble advantages. Hackneyed now, the symbol was a notable creation in its day.

An article in a previous issue also touches on the topic of caricature. In ‘Cartoons and the War’ David Wilson writes:

Tirpitz’s whiskers are today to the public what Gladstone’s collars were to an earlier generation. Harry Furness, it would seem, invented the famous white wings, but in time the collars came to signify, in a kind of artists’ shorthand, Gladstone himself.

Drawing launched in 1915 as ‘A paper devoted to art as a national asset, entirely owned, edited and managed by professional artists and designers.’ Its message to advertisers expands on the philosophy:

The proprietors of Drawing are making a serious attempt to raise the standard of Press Advertising. They believe that advertisements should embellish a magazine, that is, be of a kind which readers will admire instead of regard – as is usually the case – as an objectionable feature. Only those which come up to a certain artistic standard will be accepted by Drawing. Nothing ugly or common will be inserted. Those which consist mainly of an illustration and show originality are preferred. If you have nothing suitable of your own, our artists will design a distinctive advertisement for you, under the supervision of experts. NB. We refuse advertisement so goods not actually manufactured in Great Britain’

The editor was George Montague Ellwood (1875-1955), one of the founding members of the Guild of Craftsmen. He held the post until 1924 and during that time expanded the magazine’s coverage and its title to become Drawing and Design. He wrote several books, including English Furniture and Decoration, 1680-1800.

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2 Responses to “Caricatures in the Great War”

  1. Magazine titles and typography | Magforum Says:

    […] three titles here from Drawing date from 1915 and 1916.  At first glance, they may look the same, but take a closer look and […]

  2. Life at Punch in 1962 | Magforum Says:

    […] Eye even ran a special issue having a go at what it saw as a Punch that had lost its edge (though criticising Punch had been a topic since at least […]

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