Obituary: Ionicus

David Langdon
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:22

Joshua Charles Armitage ("Ionicus"), artist and cartoonist: born Hoylake, Cheshire 29 September 1913; married 1939 Catherine Buckle (died 1988; two daughters); died Hoylake, Merseyside 29 January 1998.

J. C. Armitage ("Ionicus") was one of the few remaining "realistic" artist-cartoonists. His beautifully crafted and detailed drawings appeared in Punch for 40 years and contrasted sharply with the over-simplified style of a newer generation.

Armitage was born and died in Hoylake, Merseyside. After attending Liverpool School of Art, he taught at the Wallesey School of Art, before volunteering for the Royal Navy in 1940. Although pronounced colour-blind by a service medical (a strange diagnosis in view of his subsequent success with the palette), he spent some time in minesweepers before becoming a naval gunnery instructor in Liverpool.

He was a small, elfin-like, unassuming man, albeit with a permanent twinkle in his eye. When his first cartoon appeared in Punch, on 29 March 1944, he wanted a nom de plume to distinguish his light-hearted work from his more serious oil painting; because the cartoon contained a couple of ionic columns he plumped for "Ionicus". The name emphasised his key interest in things architectural, as evinced by his skill in depicting urban backgrounds. His cartoons are somewhere between Acanthus, who also drew architecture, and the political cartoonist Norman Mansbridge.

In all he contributed 358 drawings - illustrations and title decorations as well as cartoons - right up to 1984. He also drew a final cover for the new Punch in 1996, which showed Mr Punch, the "new" arrival, at a railway station. He was a prolific illustrator of children's books, and produced many colour covers for the local Dalesman, as well as 50 covers for the P.G. Wodehouse paperbacks published by Penguin.

His main hobby was golf, and his illustrations for Peter Dobereiner's final, posthumous book, Well, I'll Be Deemed (1996), were serialised in the Independent on Sunday. After a lifetime membership of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, he hung up his clubs at Christmas.

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