George Gale

Perceptive political cartoonist and caricaturist
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The Independent Online

George Paterson Gale, cartoonist, caricaturist and illustrator: born Leven, Fife 11 June 1929; married 1954 Betty Watson (one son); died Edinburgh 17 September 2003.

As the cover artist and main illustrator of the Westminster weekly The House Magazine for almost 15 years, George Gale was perhaps one of the best-known political cartoonists and caricaturists in the Houses of Parliament. A perceptive but never cruel artist, he drew nearly every politician of his day and his originals were eagerly collected by their subjects.

George Gale was born in 1929 in Leven, Fife, 10 miles north of Kirkcaldy on the east coast of Scotland. He was the second of four children of John Gale, a civil engineer, and his wife Mary Paterson. After leaving school he trained as an engineering draughtsman in Leven and he spent his National Service years (1949-51) with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Aldershot, where fellow recruits included the journalist and writer William Harrington and the actor John Line. He then returned to Scotland before moving to London to study briefly at St Martin's School of Art.

The same year he began work as a graphic artist at Ravenna Studios in Putney, which produced catalogues for Harrods and other high-profile clients, and whose staff included the future James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, then working as a photographer. Gale remained at Ravenna Studios for 25 years - 1952-77 - and while there began to have his first cartoons published in newspapers and magazines such as Tit-Bits, She and the London Evening Standard.

In 1954 he returned to Scotland briefly, to be married in Edinburgh Castle to Elizabeth (Betty) Watson, a teacher, and they later settled in Richmond, Surrey.

A chance meeting in the late 1960s with Dick Clements, Editor of Tribune, led to Gale's producing regular cartoons for the left-wing weekly, though he was never himself a socialist. After William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times, saw these he invited Gale to draw political cartoons for the paper's newly launched "Europa" supplement, co-published with a number of European newspapers.

He continued to produce weekly cartoons for The Times for seven years (1973-80), notably marking Britain's entry into the EEC with his Bayeux Tapestry pastiche The Tapisserie de Bruxelles, which was widely reproduced. His work also appeared in the Economist, Tribune, Financial Times, Socialist Commentary and other British and European newspapers and journals.

When Nicholas Garland left The Daily Telegraph to join the newly founded Independent he succeeded him as Editorial/Political Cartoonist (1986-89) and on Garland's return he became Editorial/Political Cartoonist and caricaturist of the parliamentary weekly The House Magazine. From 1989 until July 2003 Gale drew covers for the magazine (many in colour) and produced full-page caricatures of political figures for the regular "Profile" feature as well as many smaller drawings. In July 2002 he moved back to Scotland, settling in Edinburgh, but continued to draw for The House Magazine, occasionally travelling to London for meetings.

As well as producing cartoons, George Gale illustrated a number of books, including The Flying Hammer (1985) by his son, the journalist and editor Iain Gale. He also produced a wide variety of advertising work - including designing the lobster logo for Wiltons Restaurant in St James's and illustrating its history, Wiltons 1742-1992 (1992), by Christopher Fildes and Quentin Letts - and drew many caricatures of members of City livery companies, banks and other corporations.

In addition, exhibitions of his drawings were held in London and elsewhere, including a retrospective of his work at Waterman Fine Arts in Jermyn Street in 1992.

As an artist he cited his main influences as being the works of James Gillray, George Cruikshank, Sir David Low and Vicky (Victor Weisz). He drew mainly in pen and ink, gouache and crayon. Examples of his work are held in public collections including the Florence Nightingale Museum, London; Edinburgh University; the Sussex Yeomanry Museum in Taunton; and the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature at the University of Kent.

His many private collectors have included Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan, Tony Benn, Enoch Powell, Betty Boothroyd and Jeffrey Archer, the actors Edward Woodward, Christopher Plummer and Peter Ustinov and the poet Sir John Betjeman.

George Gale was tall, clean-shaven and with black hair, dark-brown eyes and spectacles. Distinguished-looking and of a military bearing, he usually wore well-cut suits and spoke quietly with a soft Scottish accent. As a young man he had a passing resemblance to Sean Connery, which led to his being asked for the actor's autograph on more than one occasion. Created a Freeman of the City of London in 1996, he was also deeply religious and was an elder of the Church of Scotland. A lover of classical music, good claret and a generous dram of fine whisky, he made friends easily and had few prejudices.

Dedicated to his art, he continued to draw even when terminally ill: his last caricature was of his doctor.

Mark Bryant

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