Newly Revealed David Low Self-Caricatures

If you are unaware of the renowned British editorial cartoonist and caricaturist
here is cartoonist Mel Calman on Sir David Low:

“Low was undoubtedly the best political cartoonist of his time.” That would run from 1910 to 1960, starting in New Zealand and ending in Great Britain. His heydays were with the conservative Evening Standard during the 1930s and 1940s, where the liberal cartoonist demanded and was given free rein. An early anti-Fascist, Low cartoons were banned from Germany and Italy prior to World War Two. It was later discovered his name was among those Britons found in Himmler’s Black Book.


Some of Low’s more famous early World War Two cartoons:


Of course we can’t forget the wonderful, and very British, Col. Blimp:

Says the Political Cartoon Society:

Low’s unique and forceful style of draughtsmanship was ahead of its time and set new trends in British newspaper cartooning. His seemingly uncomplicated oriental brush style influenced not only his major rivals at the time, but also generations of cartoonists that came after him. In a few brush strokes, Low could reproduce the features that would make some character or personality instantly recognisable.

According to the former cartoonist of the Daily Telegraph, Nick Garland, ‘Low’s ability to catch a likeness is downright uncanny. If he gives us only a forehead and one eye peeping round a corner, we are able to identify the owner, even now, 70 or 80 years later.

Yes. Low was a highly regarded portraitist and caricaturist as well as cartoonist.

Which brings us to his self-caricatures. Those known were done later in his life.


But Lawrence Roberts has come upon an autograph album with
a very early self-caricature of David Low as a 20-year-old young man!

The attached images are from an autograph album I bought on-line 15-20 years ago. Having done a little bit of research my thoughts are it belonged to a friend of David Low’s sister as the bulk of the autographs are from girls from around the date of Low’s first drawing. The Low self portrait has the year 1911 during which year he left Christchurch (NZ) to work in Australia.

Side by side with an photograph of young David Low.



Also in the album is a self-portrait of the cartoonist at the height of his career.

Lawrence again:

The second image is dated 1940 and in the same album (the album owner visiting England in wartime?). The same year as Low’s “VERY WELL, ALONE” cartoon.


And Lawrence supplies some previously unknown personal history about Sir David Low too:

Also attached is a PDF of a newspaper clipping discovered by my wife. Low’s mum and dad up before the court for duck stealing (duck rustling in the USA?). The case didn’t proceed but I do wonder if the great vagueness about family life in Low’s autobiography in any way stemmed from this.


Big thanks to Lawrence Roberts for allowing The Daily Cartoonist to
present these never before published artifacts of the great David Low.


4 thoughts on “Newly Revealed David Low Self-Caricatures

  1. I understand New Zealanders’ determination to claim their great native son as their own and I won’t begrudge you that.
    But to defend myself a bit…

    From Brittanica: “New Zealand-born British journalist”

    From The British Museum: “British; New Zealander”

    From Cambridge via JSTOR: “eminent British…caricaturist”

    and so forth.

    I will grant you that not one of the cites claiming Low as British was from a New Zealand (or Australian) source.

    At least cut me some slack for informing, in my short introductory paragraphs, that his career did start in New Zealand, and that is where the new(old) images originated.

  2. Dennis

    Not sure Low thought of himself as being specifically a NZ’er nor, for that matter, did many folk born here at that time. Apart from Maori the concept probably had little traction then.

    He was British and, at the time he was born, people born in NZ were British subjects – NZ citizenship did not exist until 1948.

    So, born in NZ, yes, but New Zealand cartoonist only until he left the country. Unlike Katherine Mansfield (another expatriot NZer of the early 20thC) his work in England was not a reflection of the place where he was born or grew up.

    Not sure slack is needed as the sources are correct and there is no evidence Low ever applied for a NZ passport (first issued in 1948).


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