Sunday, May 18, 2008

J.W. Taylor

Celebrating the cartoons of J.W. Taylor, a cartoonist that's not well remembered at all, except by me. Andmaybe, after a moment of looking at his gag cartoons, you'll like his work and remember as well.

Like a lot of gag cartoonists, I discovered his work in collections of gag cartoons. I began to recognize his style and I loved his sense of humor and his broad, bold, economic ink line. When Tom Spurgeon at Comics Reporter asked his weekly "Five for Friday" question yesterday (Five For Friday #120 -- Name Five Archival/Translation Projects That Aren't Happening Right Now (As Far As You Know) That You'd Love To See), I emailed a list:

1. The Complete SKIPPY by Percy Crosby

2. The Complete Virgil "VIP" Partch

3. The New Yorker Cartoonists Do Newspaper Strips (WHITE BOY by Garrett Price, THE SMYTHES by Rea Irvin, etc.)

4. WHERE'S NEMO? The "Other" Dream Strips (NIBSY THE NEWS BOY by McManus, MR. TWEE-DEEDLE by Gruelle, THE NAPS OF POLLY SLEEPYHEAD by Newell, etc.)

5. The Complete J.W. Taylor (a great unsung British gag cartoonist for PUNCH)

I could blog about any one of those five topics, but it's the last one on the list -- the relatively unknown Punch cartoonist -- that I want to talk about a little and then show some of his terrific cartoons.

Who was J.W. Taylor? I'll share what little I know. First, his cartoons (especially the talking dogs ones and the beer ones) are very funny.

John Whitfield Taylor was a full-time schoolmaster who also cartooned. He attended the University of Manchester, and was head of the art department at Portland House School.

The little that I have found out about his life, I grabbed from the Comics, Cartoon, Caricature scan site at Dr. Chris Mullen's Visual Telling of Stories pages.

These J.W. Taylor cartoons are from two big hardcover collections from the 1950s: THE BEST CARTOONS FROM PUNCH (copyright 1955 by Bradbury, Agnew & Company, Ltd., the US proprietors of PUNCH) and CARTOON TREASURY edited by Lucy Black Johnson and Pyke Johnson, Jr. (copyright 1955 by the Johnsons).

Above: perhaps his most reproduced cartoon.

"All of his drawings are done at weekends, but throughout his working week he makes copious notes and rough sketches in a notebook which he always carries around with him. 'I attend seriously to business at educational conferences and head teachers' meetings, but I have sometimes been known to doodle on the agenda paper.'" Weekly Illustrated, The Artist and His Humor Series #14, June 1955 article by David Clayton.

"Full-time comic artists, far from resenting the success of an amateur in a highly-competitive field, are full of praise for his work. One professional, Bernard Hollowood ("Hod"), says, 'I collect genuine 'Taylors' as a connoisseur. His captions are slick and economical. The disarmingly simple brush lines of his drawings match the captions in clarity and vitality." - ibid.

"So we bought a couple of hens and I was to write a humorous best seller about our misfortunes -- but it didn't work out."

Above: parents don't change.

"All right, Brannigan -- we know you're in there!"

Above: one of my personal favorites.

Above: a rare multi-panel.

"One misses a lot -- being brought up to appreciate it."

The above gag works if you understand there's a can of Sterno with an open flame under that coffee pot!

I hope you enjoyed seeing this man's work. J.W. Taylor deserves at the very least a salute for his modern, breezy brush style, spot-on expressions and great gag writing.

Above: the Weekly Illustrated article, with cartoons.


Snowman Expert said...

I really enjoyed Mr. Taylor's cartoons. I'm afraid I wasn't familiar with him until now. I've been using snowman cartoons for my history of the snowman book and would love to include his excellent snowman cartoon above in the next edition I put out. Andy clues as to who owns the rights to his estate?
Thanks, Bob

Mike Lynch said...

Bob, you can contact Punch about rights clearances. More info. at their site:

Snowman Expert said...

Thanks so much. (read your blog every other day) On a related subject I tried to get the word out about cartoonist's rights (although it looks like things will not improve in near future).

Mike Lynch said...

The National Cartoonists Society is against the Orphan Bill act as written. Alan Gardner has news here:

Snowman Expert said...

Thank you. I'll study this link and pass this on to appropriate blogs, etc.