Paul Rigby

'Australia's No 1 Cartoonist'


Paul Crispin Rigby, cartoonist, illustrator and painter: born Melbourne, South Australia 25 October 1924; AM 1999; married 1956 Marlene Cockburn (two sons, three daughters); died Busselton, Western Australia 15 November 2006.

Paul Rigby was one of Australia's best known cartoonists of recent times and produced an estimated 15,000 drawings during his 59-year career. He was also the first ever editorial cartoonist on Rupert Murdoch's The Sun when it was re-launched as a tabloid in 1969, spent eight years on the New York Daily News and for 15 years was the main cartoonist on the New York Post.

Rigby was born in Sandringham, Melbourne, on St Crispin's Day 1924, the second son of James Rigby, a telephone engineer, and his wife Violet Wood (Paul's older brother, Peter, died aged 12). After school in Sandringham he studied Fine Art at Brighton Technical School in Melbourne, leaving aged 15 to work in a commercial art studio and then as a freelance commercial artist and book and magazine illustrator (1940-42).

During the Second World War he was a gunner-armourer in the Royal Australian Air Force, serving primarily in bombers in Europe and North Africa. After demobilisation, he returned to Melbourne and worked as a commercial artist and teacher before moving to Perth to work as an illustrator for Western Australian Newspapers (1948-52), notably on the Perth Western Mail. In 1952 he became Political Cartoonist on the Perth Daily News (1952-69), winning no fewer than five Walkley Awards (the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize) from the Australian Journalists' Association (1960, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1969).

While on the Daily News he worked closely with the English-born journalist Kirwan Ward and accompanied him on his many (often hilarious) "walkabouts" around Australia and the world for the paper, some of which were later published as books, notably Willow Pattern Walkabout (1959, about a trip to China), Perth Sketchbook (1966), Why Don't You Look Where You're Going? (1967) and Rottnest Island Sketchbook (1969). During this period he also illustrated Linkletter Down Under (1968) by the US television personality Art Linkletter and a number of children's books by Elizabeth Lane, amongst others. He married the radio and television journalist Marlene Cockburn in Perth in 1956. From 1959 Rigby's cartoons were syndicated to various newspapers throughout Australia.

In 1969 he worked briefly for Rupert Murdoch's Sydney Daily Mirror before being invited to become Editorial Cartoonist (with Clive Collins) on Murdoch's newly purchased Sun, which was relaunched as a tabloid in November that year. Trumpeted on his arrival in London as "Australia's No 1 Cartoonist", he continued to work for The Sun until 1974 (by then the biggest-selling paper in the UK) while also drawing for Murdoch's weekly News of the World.

He also contributed to Star Magazine (set up in New York by Murdoch as a rival to the National Enquirer in 1974), was syndicated in Europe through the German Springer Group and travelled widely on overseas assignments to Europe, the Soviet Union, United States, China, Vietnam, Japan and elsewhere.

In 1975 Rigby returned to Australia to work for Murdoch's Sydney Daily Telegraph (sister paper of the Sydney Daily Mirror) but then moved to the US to draw for Murdoch's newly purchased New York Post in 1977. He remained with the Post - also continuing to contribute to the weekly Star - until 1984 and during this period he won the US Newspaper Guild's Page One Award four times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986) and the New York Press Club Award (1982).

At about this time he also began a successful collaboration with the Australian cricketer Ian Chappell, illustrating a number of popular collections of humorous cricket stories beginning with Chappelli Has the Last Laugh (1980).

In 1984 he left the Post (being replaced by his son Bay) and moved to the New York News. Then, when Bay left the paper in 1992, Rigby returned to work at the Post until he retired to Florida in 2000. He and his wife went back to Western Australia in 2003 and settled in Margaret River near Perth, where he concentrated on oil painting and opened his own art gallery.

Rigby worked in pen and ink on Bristol board (Grafix, Craftint or Duotone) and always hid two tiny figures - a grinning boy and a begging dog with a wagging tail - in his detailed, usually landscape-format, cartoons. Sir Larry Lamb (his Editor on The Sun) called him "a superb draughtsman, and a complete professional", and many later artists were influenced by his book Paul Rigby's Course of Drawing and Cartooning (1976). He illustrated more than 30 books and produced a number of collections of his drawings. "The function of the editorial cartoon," he once said, "is to convince the public that they are taking themselves and the world at large far too seriously."

As well as winning many awards himself, Paul Rigby was the guest speaker at the first ever "Stanley" Awards organised by the Australian Cartoonists' Association in 1985 (the guest of honour was Prime Minister Bob Hawke). Shortly before he died he attended the 22nd Stanley Awards where he spoke for nearly two hours and was presented with the ACA's highest honour, the Jim Russell Award, for his contribution to cartooning.

His drawings have been exhibited widely in Australia, the US and Britain and were included in "Drawn and Quartered: The World of the British Newspaper Cartoon, 1720-1970" held at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1970 and "Not by Appointment" - cartoons celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee - held at the London Press Club in 1977 and opened by the Prince of Wales. Examples of Rigby's work are held in the collection of the Centre for the Study of Cartoons & Caricature at the University of Kent and elsewhere.

Of medium height, stockily built and clean-shaven, he was a quietly spoken man with a strong Australian accent and a quick, dry wit. Known as "Riggers" to his friends, he had been a keen sportsman in his youth (Victoria Junior Tennis Champion and even playing in the West Australian tennis championships in 1948) and his many interests included jazz, vintage cars and collecting Japanese woodcut prints and Netsuke carvings.

Mark Bryant

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