David Low (cartoonist)

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Sir David Low
David Low (cartoonist) 1947.jpg
Born(1891-04-07)7 April 1891
Died19 September 1963(1963-09-19) (aged 72)
Kensington, London, England

Sir David Alexander Cecil Low (7 April 1891 – 19 September 1963) was a New Zealand political cartoonist and caricaturist who lived and worked in the United Kingdom for many years. Low was a self-taught cartoonist. Born in New Zealand, he worked in his native country before migrating to Sydney in 1911, and ultimately to London (1919), where he made his career and earned fame for his Colonel Blimp depictions and his merciless satirising of the personalities and policies of German dictator Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and other leaders of his times.

Cartoonist visual artist who makes cartoons

A cartoonist is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is often created for entertainment, political commentary, or advertising. Cartoonists may work in many formats, such as booklets, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, graphic design, illustrations, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.

New Zealand Constitutional monarchy in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Colonel Blimp

Colonel Blimp is a British cartoon character by cartoonist David Low, first drawn for Lord Beaverbrook's London Evening Standard in April 1934. Blimp is pompous, irascible, jingoistic, and stereotypically British, identifiable by his walrus moustache and the interjection "Gad, Sir!". Low claimed that he developed the character after overhearing two military men in a Turkish bath declare that cavalry officers should be entitled to wear their spurs inside tanks. The character was named after the barrage balloon, which was known as a blimp.


Low was born and educated in New Zealand. His first work was published when he was only 11 years old. His professional career began at The Canterbury Times in 1910. The following year he moved to Australia and worked for The Bulletin . His work attracted the attention of Henry Cadbury, the part owner of The Star , and Low moved to London in 1919, working for that paper until 1927, when he moved to the Evening Standard . There he produced his most famous work, chronicling the rise of fascism in the 1930s, the policy of Appeasement, and the conflict of World War II. His stinging depictions of Hitler and Mussolini led to his work being banned in Italy and Germany, and his being named in The Black Book.

Henry Cadbury Quaker, peace activist, biblical scholar, historian

Henry Joel Cadbury was an American biblical scholar, Quaker historian, writer, and non-profit administrator.

<i>The Star</i> (London) London evening newspaper published from 1788 to 1960

The Star was a London evening newspaper founded May 3, 1788 under the original title Star and Evening Advertiser and was the first daily evening newspaper in the world. Founding sponsors of the new paper included publisher John Murray and William Lane of the Minerva Press.


Early life

Ye Madde Designer, 1935 Ye Madde Designer.jpg
Ye Madde Designer, 1935

The son of chemist David Brown Low and Jane Caroline Flanagan, David Low was born in Dunedin on 7 April 1891, and attended primary school there. His family later moved to Christchurch, where Low briefly attended Christchurch Boys' High School. However following the death of his eldest brother, Low was taken out of school, as his parents believed that he had been weakened by over studying. Low's first cartoon was published in 1902, when he was 11 years old, a three-picture strip in the British comic Big Budget . [1]

Dunedin City in Otago, New Zealand

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago region. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Christchurch Metropolitan area in South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand's third-most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks. At the request of the Deans brothers — whose farm was the earliest European settlement in the area — the river was named after the River Avon in Scotland, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near to where their grandfather's farm was located.

Christchurch Boys High School secondary school in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch Boys' High School, often referred to as CBHS, is a single sex state secondary school in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is situated on a 12-hectare (30-acre) site between the suburbs of Riccarton and Fendalton, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to the west of central Christchurch. The school also provides boarding facilities for 130 boys in a residence called Adams House located about 500 metres (1,600 ft) to the east. The school's colours are deep blue and black with an occasional flash of gold.

Early career

Low began his career as a professional cartoonist with the Canterbury Times in 1910. In 1911 he moved to Sydney, Australia to join The Bulletin . During his employment at The Bulletin, Low became well known for a 1916 cartoon satirising Billy Hughes, then the Prime Minister of Australia, entitled The Imperial Conference. After that success, Low published many cartoons depicting Hughes' forceful and eccentric personality. Hughes was not impressed and apparently called Low a "bastard" to his face. [2] A collection of Low's cartoons of Hughes entitled The Billy Book, which he published in 1918, brought Low to the notice of Henry Cadbury, part-owner of the London Star . In 1919 Cadbury offered Low a job with the Star, which Low promptly accepted.

Billy Hughes Australian politician, seventh prime minister of Australia

William Morris Hughes, was an Australian politician who served as the seventh Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1915 to 1923. He is best known for leading the country during World War I, but his influence on national politics spanned several decades. Hughes was a member of federal parliament from Federation in 1901 until his death, the only person to have served for more than 50 years. He represented six political parties during his career, leading five, outlasting four, and being expelled from three.

Prime Minister of Australia executive head of the Government of Australia

The Prime Minister of Australia is the head of government of Australia. The individual who holds the office is the most senior Minister of State, the leader of the Federal Cabinet. The Prime Minister also has the responsibility of administering the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and is the chair of the National Security Committee and the Council of Australian Governments. The office of Prime Minister is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia but exists through Westminster political convention. The individual who holds the office is commissioned by the Governor-General of Australia and at the Governor-General's pleasure subject to the Constitution of Australia and constitutional conventions.

Move to England

In England, Low worked initially at the London Star from 1919 to 1927. The London Star sympathised with his own moderately left-wing views. In 1927, he accepted an invitation from Max Aitken to join the conservative Evening Standard on the strict understanding that there would be no editorial interference with his output. Low produced numerous cartoons about the Austrian Civil War, the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, the 1936 Summer Olympics, the Spanish Civil War, and other events of the interwar period. He also worked with Horace Thorogood to produce illustrated whimsical articles on the London scene, under the byline "Low & Terry".

<i>Evening Standard</i> daily tabloid newspaper in London

The Evening Standard is a local, free daily newspaper, published Monday to Friday in tabloid format in London. It is owned by Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev. It is the dominant local/regional evening paper for London and the surrounding area, with coverage of national and international news and City of London finance. Its current editor is former UK Conservative Member of Parliament and Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. In October 2009, the paper ended a 180-year history of paid circulation and became a free newspaper, doubling its circulation as part of a change in its business plan.

Austrian Civil War conflict

The Austrian Civil War, also known as the February Uprising, is a term sometimes used for a few days of skirmishes between Fascist and Socialist forces between 12 February and 16 February 1934, in Austria. The clashes started in Linz and took place principally in the cities of Vienna, Graz, Bruck an der Mur, Judenburg, Wiener Neustadt and Steyr, but also in some other industrial cities of eastern and central Austria.

Second Italo-Ethiopian War 1935-1936 war between Italy and Ethiopia

The Second Italo-Ethiopian War, also referred to as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, was a colonial war fought from 3 October 1935 until 19 February 1937, although Addis Ababa was captured on 5 May 1936. The war was fought between the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy and those of the Ethiopian Empire. Ethiopia was defeated, annexed and subjected to military occupation. The Ethiopian Empire became a part of the Italian colony of Italian East Africa. Fighting continued until the Italian defeat in East Africa in 1941, during the East African Campaign of the Second World War.

John Gunther called Low "the greatest caricaturist in the world". [3] In 1937, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels told British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax that British political cartoons, particularly those of Low's, were damaging Anglo-German relations. In 1937 Low had produced an occasional strip about "Hit and Muss" (Hitler and Mussolini), but after Germany made official complaints he substituted a composite dictator, "Muzzler". [4] After the war, Low is said to have found his name in The Black Book , the list of those the Nazis planned to arrest in the aftermath of an invasion of Great Britain. [5]

John Gunther American journalist

John Gunther was an American journalist and author.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party – officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party – in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar aims.

Joseph Goebbels Nazi politician and Propaganda Minister

Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was one of Adolf Hitler's close associates and most devoted followers, and was known for his skills in public speaking and his deep, virulent antisemitism, which was evident in his publicly voiced views. He advocated progressively harsher discrimination, including the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.

World War II

Rendezvous, 20 September 1939. Davidlowrendezvous.png
Rendezvous, 20 September 1939.

His works are featured in many British history textbooks. On 1 September, the Germans invaded Poland from the west and, on 17 September, the Soviets invaded from the east. Low depicted these events in one of his most famous cartoons, Rendezvous, first published in the Evening Standard on 20 September 1939. It satirises the cynicism which lay at the heart of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, showing Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin bowing politely across the dead body of Poland, but nevertheless greeting each other respectively as "the scum of the earth, I believe?" and "the bloody assassin of the workers, I presume?". The words are based on those supposedly used by Henry Morton Stanley at his meeting with David Livingstone in 1871.

The Harmony Boys of 2 May 1940 [6] depicts Hitler, Stalin, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and Spanish dictator Francisco Franco "harmonizing" and getting along quite well. When this cartoon was published, the German invasion of the Soviet Union was still more than a year in the future.

His satirical works met much criticism in the British public eye. The British press called him a "war monger," and many citizens felt disdain for his depictions of appeasement.

Remainder of career

Low remained in the United Kingdom for the rest of his career. He left the Evening Standard in 1950. That same year, he moved to the Daily Herald and stayed there until 1953. Finally, Low moved to the Manchester Guardian and was there from 1953.

Low received a knighthood in the 1962 Birthday Honours and died at his home in London on 19 September 1963. [7] [8] His obituary in The Guardian described him as "the dominant cartoonist of the western world". [9]

A blue plaque commemorates Low at 33 Melbury Court, Kensington. [10]

Personal life

Low married Madeline Grieve Kenning of Auckland on 7 June 1920 in St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden; they lived for many years in Golders Green, North London. [1] The couple had two daughters: in 1939, Time described Low's breakfast as "a political meeting, with the cartoonist, his wife, and his two young daughters threshing out the news." His wife and daughters survived him. [1]


Self portrait Low self portrait.jpg
Self portrait

United Kingdom

Political Cartoon Gallery 16 Lower Richmond Road, London SW15 1JP Collection of Low's original cartoons from the Evening Standard and The Manchester Guardian, as well as original caricatures from his New Statesman series.


Selected works

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  1. 1 2 3 "Low, Sir David Alexander Cecil (1891-1963)". Australian Dictionary of Biography . Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  2. "Air raid, Sir! Take cover!". National Archives of Australia . Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  3. Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 289.
  4. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  5. Exhibition celebrates the 20th Century's greatest cartoonist, BBC Worldwide Press Releases. Retrieved on 14 October 2008.
  6. "Study of Propaganda & War – History:Introduction". University of Kent. Archived from the original on 30 May 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  7. "No. 42683". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 June 1962. p. 4308.
  8. "Index entry". FreeBMD . ONS. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  9. "Obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  10. "LOW, SIR DAVID (1891–1963)". English Heritage . Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  11. http://archive.cartoons.ac.uk/record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=LSE2772
  12. Benson, Dr Timothy S. "'Low and the Dictators'". Political Cartoon Gallery. Political Cartoon Society. ISBN   978-09549-0087-8 . Retrieved November 23, 2017.