David Low: Kiwi Cartoonist on Hitler's Blacklist

12 October – 24 November 1996

David Low, known as one of the most forceful cartoonists of this century and the inventor of Colonel Blimp, was the only artist to be personally entered on Hitler's death list. The essence of Low's direct and perceptive works during the turbulent years around World War II is captured in this exhibition of Low's cartoons. They are being toured by the New Zealand Archives Trust with works on loan from the University of Kent, and the New Zealand High Commission, London.

Low spent most of his formative years in Christchurch watching and sketching the local personalities, observing the passing parade of ideas and opinions, and earning a few pounds sketching the felons in the Magistrates Court for the New Zealand Truth. Self-taught he learned, as he said in his 1956 autobiography, "to appreciate the art that lay in the synthesis and emphasis of truth perceived in the living person." At 17 he was a freelance cartoonist for the Sketcher and later for the Spectator, a satirical Christchurch weekly he was also sending samples of his work to Australian editors.

In 1911 this initiative paid off when Low was offered a six month contract in the Melbourne office of the Sydney Bulletin. Eight years later he landed a job with the London Star, and aged 28 set off on a brilliant international career, a career that was to bring him fame and fortune and the hatred of many of the political leaders he so cuttingly caricatured.

David Low: Kiwi Cartoonist on Hitler's Blacklist features over 40 cartoons dating from 1923 to the 1940s. Like Churchill, with the rise of the Nazi regime Low was convinced of Hitler's war-like intentions and his was a strong voice against appeasement. Low stirred readers from all social classes with his pointed comments and the freshness and directness of his style. To present his deeply felt beliefs he invented numerous new techniques for the cartoon image, taking it from its earlier static image into something much more active and in tune with modern times. It was David Low who developed a number of the identifying 'tabs' like Hitler's toothbrush moustache or Lenin's boots which have now become indelibly linked with the modern portrayal of those personalities.

Curated and managed by Susan Foster of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive Trust and proudly supported by Brierley Investments Ltd in association with the British Council, David Low: Kiwi Cartoonist on Hitler's Blacklist is a show not to be missed.

Susan Foster will be visiting Christchurch and will give an illustrated lecture on David Low: Kiwi Cartoonist on Hitler's Blacklist, at 11 am, on Sunday 20 October in the Conference Room of the Christ's College Library.

('David Low: Kiwi Cartoonist on Hitler's Blacklist', Bulletin, No.104, October/November 1996, p.2)