College honours artist who saw the jokes in class

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE work of the "father" of British strip cartoonists is finally to be recognised by a two-year study to link his drawings to social history.

W H Haselden, whose work appeared in the Daily Mirror and Punch between 1904 and 1940, was the creator of the "Sad Experiences of Big and Little Willie" lampooning Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and his son during the First World War.

He was also an effective social commentator and closely observed differences in attitudes between the sexes and among social classes.

Strip cartoons were rare when Haselden first contributed to the Daily Mirror although they had become common by 1920. Andy Capp, the paper's most famous strip cartoon character, did not appear until 1953, however.

Jane Newton, assistant director of the Centre for the Study of Cartoons at the University of Kent, said Haselden's work was a priceless asset in the examination of changing social attitudes.

"Other cartoonists of the time were quite dour," she said. "His attitude was to keep smiling through those awful days."

The centre, which boasts a cartoon collection of more than 85,000 drawings from 1900 to the present day, has more than 6,000 Haseldens, on loan from his estate. Part of the two-year project, which will involves a pounds 4,500 maintenance grant for a post-graduate student, will be to record each cartoon on a digitised database to make them instantly available for research.

"The collection has never been catalogued or analysed," said Ms Newton. "But we use the cartoons a lot in exhibitions as they make social comments on situations that people still face today." A self-taught artist, William Kerridge Haselden died in 1953 at the age of 81. He had won wide recognition for his work. Kaiser Wilhelm described his caricature by Haselden as "damnably effective" and, according to the Directory of British Cartoonists, he is reported to have been offered a knighthood, which he turned down. Although something of a social conservative and often commenting on the generation gap, Haselden could see both sides, as in his introduction for a 1921 annual where he contrasted the "elderly gloomists" with the young Gladys.

"The wretched child is unconscious that she lives in a time when she ought to be weeping and wearing sackcloth and ashes instead of laughing and chattering and wearing whatever scanty things she does wear," he wrote. "War and post-war conditions have surrounded her during her most conscious years, and yet she hasn't found life so bad. You may condemn her frivolity if you like, but don't be too sure that it hasn't got its uses. Her cheeriness may pull you through."

Other Haselden creations were Miss Joy Flapperton, Colonel Dugout and Burlington Bertie, all used to illustrate social changes of the times.