WORLD WAR 2 CARTOONS
Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and often witty or incisive comments on the progress of the war, cartoons of the British at war are now collectable
The years of World War 2 encompassed one of the greatest ages of cartooning.
The press was the chief communicator of news at that time and day after day for the duration of the war, the popular cartoonists of British newspapers such as the Evening Standard, Daily Mirror, Daily Express and News Chronicle vied with each other to make the most incisive and witty comments on the progress of the war at home and on the various fronts.
Through the press and radio, the British public were better informed about events than ever before in history. They were also, tragically, more personally involved.
The cartoonists of the time fulfilled an important function. Using the visual medium, they mounted an instantly comprehensible campaign against the mindlessness and inhumanity of Hitler's war and at the same time gave a light-hearted view of wartime events and circumstances at a time when
light heartedness was not a common quality.
Hitler and the Nazi movement were, from the early 1930s, obvious targets for artists like David Low whose cartoons for the Evening Standard so enraged Goebbels in 1933 that his works were banned in Germany, well before the outbreak of the war.
His simple but powerfully drawn cartoons were often astonishingly perceptive.
He attracted a huge following in his time and today his work is still compelling.
A couple of other outstanding political cartoonists were, like Low (a New Zealander),
foreigners. Vicky (Victor Weisz) was the star in the News Chronicle's constellation and later the man to famously depict Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan as 'Supermac'.
Philip Zec similarly produced some telling images for the Daily Mirror.
Home-grown commentators to look out for are Giles who, on more than one occasion, brings a sparkling comic humour to many of the wartime situations.
Anton, similarly, depicted ordinary Britishers coping with the war.
Osbert Lancaster, too, used his inimitable
style to produce a satirical comedy of manners of the British upper class at war.
Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird) was one of Punch's most notable 20th-century cartoonists. His works are among the most interesting from a visual point of view in that they are not only technically accomplished but also extremely elegant and simple.
As well as cartoons, he drew the design for one of the famous 'Careless Talk Costs Lives' posters.
CARTOON COLLECTOR'S NOTES
Many 20th-century cartoons are relatively undervalued, although they provide a fascinating social and historical record of the time and arc
visually appealing. But, like other ephemera such as pop collectables, they are making something of a show in auctions and arc now carried by a few specialist dealers.
Cartoons of World War 2 were produced in their thousands not only by famous and popular artists such as Low and Vicky but also by people who worked for provincial and foreign newspapers and magazines.
In theory, a lot of these should have survived.
FINDING AN ORIGINAL CARTOON
An original cartoon is the artist's actual drawing from which the newspaper (or magazine) cartoon was reproduced. Most World War 2 ones are simply in pen and ink, since there
was no colour reproduction in newspapers, and many carry a title or caption, as well as the artist's signature.
Although the really famous and most memorable works of artists like Vicky and David
Low will be in museums or private collections, there are still many others to be found, simply because the cartoons were produced on a daily basis for many newspapers.
Prices vary, depending on the subject matter.
A Low cartoon commenting on an obscure event in the war, now forgotten by all but military historians, can often be picked up at auction for a quite reasonable sum while an important or
interesting work can fetch ten times as much.
Less pricey are works by Osbert Lancaster which can sometimes be found quite cheaply, and for lesser known Punch cartoonists such as Frank Reynolds and others, bargain prices can quite often be paid.
World War 2 cartoons will often appear among a general sale of original illustrations at auction sales in both London and the provinces.
Some dealers specializing in modern prints and drawings will also sell them, along with other works.
The canny collector, who is prepared to do a little research on the cartoon artists of period, may also pick up items in antiques markets and fairs and in house clearance sales.
CONDITION, CARE and KEEPING
You'll find some antique postcards in on-line auctions, but retail
availability is quite limited, with only a few stores scattered around the