Showing posts with label J F Archibald. Show all posts
Showing posts with label J F Archibald. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Black and White Maestros by Les Tanner (Part Two)

[Editor's note: the following survey of Australian cartoonists was written by cartoonist and cartooning historian Les Tanner for the centenary issue of Sydney publication, The Bulletin, published January 29th, 1980. Les Tanner's Family maintain a facebook page for him here.]

Read part one here.

 Phil May Self portrait

The Black and White Maestros by Les Tanner (Part Two)

Phil May was of a different kettle. Eighteen years younger than Hop, and sickly, he was recruited by W. H. (Hot-on-the) Traill after a Conan-Doyle-like adventure involving a meeting with a stranger in the Bayswater (London) swimming baths, a search and running to earth in a flat in Drury Lane, and an argument about salary (what's new?). So much rubbish and myth has been written about Phil May that it's worth noting that his economy of line had nothing to do with the vagaries of The Bulletin press. It had everything to do with his admiration for the careful paring away of non-essentials. Traill once said to him: "Look here, Mr May, Hopkins puts a good deal more work into his drawings than you do. Can't you finish yours up a bit?" May replied: "When I can leave out half the lines I use now, I shall want six times the money I am being paid now."

Unlike Hop, May didn't give a damn about politics and demanded that cartoon ideas be written out for him. Even "Things I see when I'm out without a gun" wasn't his title. It was Hop's suggestion. May just did the drawings. But what drawings — and what people to work with!

Phil May Postcard

The more you read around The Bulletin's early years, the more aware you become of Archibald, his zest and his vigor, prodding and pointing to some aspect of life, whether it was a woman buying meat or a child crying, as he walked artists and writers around the streets. Both May and Norman Lindsay recalled these outings. No wonder Phil May's output was so great — 900 drawings in two years — with such a man egging him to more and fresh ideas. How many editors have the wit and style to start out named John Feltham and end up as Jules Francois?

By the end of the century, the pantheon was almost complete. George Rossi Ashton, who had come to Australia to join his brother, Julian, succeeded Phil May. George Lambert, Fred Leist, Frank Mahony, B. E. Minns, Alf Vincent, Percy Spence, Tom Durkin, D. H. Souter, Ambrose Dyson and Hugh McCrae, all "saving their best work for The Bulletin," appeared together with Hop in the Christmas edition of 1899.

 D. H. Souter

Such were Archibald's persuasive talents that he even talked Tom Roberts into covering the Melbourne Cup of 1886. No wonder everyone wanted to be in the magazine.

In 1886 Traill left and, after some ups and downs, Archibald persuaded William Macleod, one of The Bulletin's original illustrators, to give up his work on the Picturesque Atlas of Australia and take up the management. (An artist with business sense is not the contradiction it sounds; ask Rudy Komon). Macleod and Archibald became equal partners and an added dimension was given to the kindly understanding of artists already present at The Bulletin.

 Our demoralized black brother
Police Trooper: ‘Well Jacky! What have you been up to this time?’
Jacky: ‘Not much, boss. Only swearing like a plurry trooper.’ (Frank Mahony)

Critics argue as to whether it was A. G. Stephens or Julian Ashton who discovered Norman Lindsay. The artist has said in effect it was neither but his friend, Jack Elkington, who recommended him to Archibald. No one doubts who accepted the recommendation.

In 1901 the young Victorian artist arrived in Sydney on the same day as the Duke and Duchess of York. "Flags, bands, banners and triumphal arches everywhere," he wrote, "and not a room to be had anywhere."

Lindsay and photo-engraving were made for each other. M. G. Skipper, writing in 1930 for The Bulletin's 50th anniversary, said: "If Norman Lindsay had to draw for the wood engraver he could no more have developed his peculiar style than Beethoven could have produced his symphonies if he had had to score them for the tom-tom." Personally, I would have said Debussy, but what's in a name in the afternoon of a faun?

Norman Lindsay's style has its adherents and opponents. Most of his family certainly took to it with glee. At times it's hard to know whether it is Norman, Lionel, Percy or Ray's creature looking at you through those slanted eyes. The only exception was when something big and portentous had to be drawn. Then it was all stops out for Norman as the pen-tip dipped into bravura and the War God sounded his gong.

The one Lindsay no one denies is sister Ruby. She, significantly, didn't use the family surname. She signed her work simply Ruby Lind and you can still fool people, who can spot any of the other Lindsays, with her work. Cool elegance of line and stylish economy of composition were her earmarks. She married Will Dyson, the cartoonist, and died tragically in the influenza epidemic of 1919.

Lionel Lindsay made himself a household name with a character in The Bulletin that Norman had got bored with after two or three drawings — Chunder Loo of Akim Foo, the boot-polish Indian.

 Chunder Loo of Akim Foo, the boot-polish Indian - Lionel Lindsay

The Black and White Maestros © the estate of Les Tanner.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Black and White Maestros by Les Tanner (Part One)

Les Tanner

[Editor's note: the following survey of Australian cartoonists was written by cartoonist and cartooning historian Les Tanner for the centenary issue of Sydney publication, The Bulletin, published January 29th, 1980. Les Tanner's Family maintain a facebook page for him here.]

The Black and White Maestros by Les Tanner

"THE sketches in the American comic papers made us yearn." This is not some clubman, pre-Australian Play-boy, talking but W. H. Traill, editor and manager of The Bulletin in the early 1880s, reminiscing about the pioneering days of the paper.

Traill in 1883 was about to embark on two trips overseas which were to change the future of black-and-white drawing in Australia. He was going recruiting.

J. F. Archibald has most of the glory from The Bulletin but it was Traill who did the leg work. He brought "one of the many clever comic draughtsmen whose work embellished various Yankee papers which we received regularly . . . Further," he wrote, "we had taken notice that the illustrations  were effected by some photographic process unknown in Australia." The first was Livingston Hopkins (Hop); the second, photo-engraving. Photo-engraving was to illustration what television is to Willesee, Frost and Parkinson — without it they would have been as interesting and exciting as any bunch of nice lads.

Until photo-engraving, drawing for reproduction was a dodgy business, relying on the skill and sobriety of the engraver as he painstakingly pared away with his engraving tools at the wood block, scooping out the white areas and leaving the black areas standing to receive the ink. Admirers of Tenniel's style in illustrating Alice would do better to pay homage to his engraver. Now Hop, Phil May (Traill's second recruit), Norman Lindsay and the others no longer needed to limp in this fashion; Traill gave them dancing shoes. Now they could draw with pen or brush and have their lines photographically enlarged or reduced on to a sensitised zinc plate and the whites eaten away by acid.

William Macleod, The Bulletin's first cartoonist, had tried drawing on metal with acid-resisting ink, and then etching. Traill stunk his house out with collodion experimenting. However, Hop insisted that he import two American engravers.

 Livingston Hopkins (Hop)

Livingston Hopkins was a tall, thin, austere veteran of the American Civil War whose work caught Traill's eye on the train journey from San Francisco to New York. His humor was the dry, laconic, no-bull type we have come to call Australian. He thought up his own ideas, clipping cuttings from newspapers which he carried around "in case of an idea."

 The Little Boy at Manly as captured by his creator, Livingston Hopkins.

Hop was remarkable in that he had no set manner of drawing — style as it is sometimes called. He moved easily from pen to crayon to brush, in line or half-tone, so that for the two periods when he was the whole art staff, The Bulletin had the appearance of having a variety of artists working for it. Hop was a truly inventive man with a keen sense of the ridiculous. In an age where most cartoonists were searching for a national symbol and were dredging up some of the most unlikely antipodean Britannia-substitutes (Minerva, goddess of handicrafts, professions, art, war and wisdom, was one), Hop spotted in the subscription list to aid the Sudan contingent the words, "A Little Boy at Manly, £25." He was off with the longest-playing supporting character in the business.

Norman Lindsay depicts The Little Boy from Manly in a cartoon during the conscription furore.

Hop drew him, Low drew him (sometimes as the Meggitt's linseed oil boy), Minns drew him and Lindsay drew him. Sometimes a bit stunned, sometimes shedding a tear (for poor, dead Henry Parkes), cheeky, angry or defiant, the Little Boy at Manly was both original and right as a symbol. As for what Hop did to Premier George Reid, Malcolm Fraser should take comfort at his demise. Although dignified, if not freezing, in manner, Hop was a practical joker, given to seating people on strategic benches in his garden, whereupon they would get water squirted in their ears. He nevertheless believed in creating for the readers an acceptable public image of lunatic bohemianism (every-one knows that artists are mad) and his self-portraits convey this convincingly. Maybe the self-portraits were right. When was the last time you had water squirted in your ear by a six-foot patrician?

David Low renders the Little Boy at Manly as the Meggitt's linseed oil boy.

Livingston Hopkin's portrait from Harrower collection, Les Tanner portrait from Cartoons of Australian History by Peter Coleman and Les Tanner. The Black and White Maestros © the estate of Les Tanner.