How should cartoonists respond to war?

Laughter has always been a coping mechanism for dealing with war. Some of this country’s most memorable cartoons have been born out of conflict. Think of Gillray’s ‘Plumb-Pudding in Danger’, Bairnsfather’s ‘Well, if you knows of a better ’ole, go to it’ or Low’s ‘Very well, alone’ – they are the quintessential images that defined the Napoleonic, first and second world wars. War didn’t stop cartoonists in the thick of the action from making light of their circumstances. Bruce Bairnsfather, a young officer who began sending jokes to the Bystander in 1915, was invalided out of Belgium suffering from shell-shock, but continued to draw. His work was initially dubbed ‘vulgar

The peerless social satire of Pont of Punch

Eighty years ago this month, the cartoonist Graham Laidler — better known as Pont — died of polio. He contracted the disease while evacuating refugees from London in his car. He was only 32. In 1940, thousands of people were dying in the war, but Pont’s death was marked by an appreciation from J.B. Priestley in the Times, and an outpouring of grief in readers’ letters to the magazine with which he had become synonymous: Punch. Pont, the son of a successful painter and decorator, originally trained as an architect. But after he caught TB, doctors advised him to abandon his work and travel to Austria to recover. There he

Why does no one want to be a cartoonist any more?

‘Nightmare!’ is how The Spectator’s cartoon editor Michael Heath has been describing cartooning for at least 30 years, but it’s truer now than ever. Eighty years ago, cartoonists were so celebrated that waxworks of Low, Strube and Poy were displayed in Madame Tussauds. Today, all that remains of Low is a pair of waxy hands in Kent University’s British Cartoon Archive. We are a vanishing species. There is a lack of new blood in the industry that doesn’t bode well for the future. When I was a student, getting published in Punch and Private Eye was seen as the pinnacle of a career in humour. Many tried —and succeeded —