One of my favourite cartoonists is Leslie Illingworth (1902 – 1979), who is best known for his cartoons for the Daily Mail and Punch. He began his career drawing sporting cartoons for the Western Mail and had a successful freelance career before getting his work published by Punch in 1927 and the Daily Mail in 1939.
I know his Punch work best – especially his illustrations for the “Big Cut” – the weekly full-page cartoon that ran with the editorial. He had a beautifully detailed style that managed to be both delicate and robust. He used a Gillott 290 pen with Higgins ink on hot-pressed fashion board, although you’ll be able to see from the pages following that he also used a scraperboard and brush. However, it’s his pen and ink work I like best – close up his lines appear very scratchy, but the cumulative effect is really quite luscious.
Apparently, like most of Punch’s big-cut cartoonists he wasn’t strongly political and played a fairly passive role in deciding the subject of the cartoon at the weekly Punch lunch. However, his most controversial work appeared in this feature – a portrait of then Prime Minister Winston Churchill suffering the effects of a second debilitating stroke. The stroke was an open secret in Fleet Street, although never publicly mentioned. In his editorial on February 3rd 1954, Punch editor Malcolm Muggeridge published Illingworth’s cartoon with the line “Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening” (King James Bible, psalm 104:23) and article on a Byzantine ruler called Bellarius whose faculties failed him in his later years.
Churchill was not best pleased. ‘‘Punch goes everywhere,’’ he moaned to his doctor. ‘‘I shall have to retire if this sort of things goes on. It isn’t really a proper cartoon. You’ve seen it? There’s malice in it. Look at my hands – I have beautiful hands.’’ From then on Churchill’s friends referred to Malcolm Muggeridge as “Buggeridge”. There’s no record of what they called Illingworth…
Here in its entirety is Illingworth – On Target, the catalogue for an exhibition of his work held in the Wiggin Gallery of the Boston Public Library in 1970 – just click on the thumbnails for bigger images.
It’s quite long so the post will be in two parts with the rest to follow shortly.