PCOer John Jensen writes on cartoonists Wally Fawkes (Trog) and Leslie Illingworth:
Two great cartoonists were seen recently at Tim Benson’s Political Cartoon Gallery. One of them was dead, the other elderly but very much alive. Wally Fawkes ‘TROG’, a wonderful caricaturist, was paying his respects to an old friend, the late Leslie Illingworth (1902-79) whose drawings were on display in a new exhibition. Tim Benson’s book – Illingworth, political cartoons from the Daily Mail 1939-69 – was also making its debut.
TROG is no longer drawing and for the cruellest of reasons: his eyes have let him down. This is a tragedy for Wally and a loss to the many people who appreciate and love his skill. I’ve known his work since the early 50s and known him personally, but slightly, for more than forty years. Yet, in company with many people who ‘know’ Wally, I barely know him at all. He doesn’t mind making a display of himself when trumpeting his jazz, but when it comes to drawing he rarely puts in an appearance, refuses to make speeches let alone give a talk or lecture. When he does turn up he is invariably a quiet presence and, for some of us, far too modest. But that modesty doesn’t derive from uncertainty: Wally knows his worth, he just doesn’t shout about it. His qualities speak for him. Unlike his jazz,Wally’s drawing is not spontaneous nor is it laboured. Instead, his caricatures result from observation and analysis of his subjects: forensic dissections.
Three collections of his work have been published none of which do him justice though they are better than nothing. First, from Canada, Trog, the Cartoonist of the Year, Le Pavillon International de l’Humour, Montreal, 1976; The World of Trog, Robson Books, 1977, and finally, Trog, Forty Graphic Years, Fourth Estate 1987. All in black-and-white. All lacking colour! Colour is one of Wally’s strengths.
Leslie Illingworth would have been pleased Wally turned up for the occasion. They were old friends. Leslie is generally considered to be the last of the great pen-draughtsmen in the Punch, Victorian tradition. Sad, therefore, that none of his drawing for Punch appear in Tim Benson’s selection. This is not for the want of trying, but circumstances said No. Draper Hill a collector of Illingworth’s vintage originals, and author of the definitive James Gillray biography, died recently. He had been ill for quite a while and uncontactable. A future volume, perhaps, in due course? Leslie, like Wally, was a wonderful colourist. If Illingworth had a fault, and he had, it was that power and emotion were in thrall to his precise draughtsmanship. That said, it is the penwork, the superb scraper-board cartoons and his colour illustrations that remain to be admired in the pages of Punch and, when possible, collected.
Illingworth was the kindest of men. Too generous sometimes. His Welsh accent was beguiling and his huge bushy eyebrows were the only alarming thing about him.
The exhibition of cartoons by Leslie Illingworth continues at the Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, London WC1E 7BS. You can contact them at 020 7580 1114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more of John Jensen’s contributions to Bloghorn here.