David Low (cartoonist)

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Sir David Low
Born (1891-04-07)April 7, 1891
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died September 19, 1963(1963-09-19) (aged 72)
London, United Kingdom

Sir David Alexander Cecil Low (7 April 1891–19 September 1963) was a New Zealand political cartoonist who lived and worked in the United Kingdom for many years. Low was a self-taught cartoonist. Born in New Zealand, he worked in his native country before migrating to Sydney, Australia in 1911, and ultimately to London (1919), where he made his career and earned fame for his Colonel Blimp depictions and his merciless satirising of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and their policies. Such stinging depictions led to his work being banned in Italy and Germany.

Low received a knighthood in 1962, and died in London in 1963. Upon his death in 1963, Low was described in the press as "the dominant cartoonist of the western world".[1]

Early life

The son of David Brown Low and Jane Caroline Flanagan, David Low was born in Dunedin on 7 April 1891, and attended primary school there. His family later moved to Christchurch, where Low briefly attended Christchurch Boys' High School. However following the death of his eldest brother Low was taken out of school, as his parents believed that he had been weakened by over studying. Low's first cartoon was published in 1902, when he was 11 years old, a three picture strip in the British comic Big Budget.[2]

Early career

Low began his career as a professional cartoonist with the Canterbury Times in 1910. In 1911 he moved to Sydney, Australia to join the Bulletin. During his employment at the Bulletin, Low became famous for a 1916 cartoon of William Hughes, then the Prime Minister of Australia, entitled The Imperial Conference. A collection of Low's cartoons of Hughes entitled The Billy Book, which he published in 1918, brought Low to the notice of Henry Cadbury, part-owner of the London Star. In 1919 Cadbury offered Low a job with the Star, which Low promptly accepted.

Move to England

In England, Low worked initially at the London Star (1919–27), which sympathised with his own moderately left-wing views. He then accepted an invitation from Max Aitken to join the conservative Evening Standard (1927–50) on the strict understanding that there would be no editorial interference with his output. Later he moved to the Daily Herald (1950–53), and finally the Manchester Guardian (from 1953).

World War II

In 1937, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels told British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax that British political cartoons, particularly those of Low's, were damaging Anglo-German relations. In 1937 Low had produced an occasional strip about "Hit and Muss" (Hitler and Mussolini), but after Germany made official complaints he substituted a composite dictator, "Muzzler".[3] After the war, Low is said to have found his name in the The Black Book, the list of those the Nazis planned to arrest in the aftermath of an invasion of Great Britain.[4]

A generation of New Zealand school students were, and are still being, taught the origins of the Second World War in textbooks illustrated with Low's cartoons and were told that Hitler had a personal hatred of the cartoonist. His works are also featured in many British history textbooks.

One of Low's most famous cartoons, Rendezvous, was first published in the Evening Standard on the 20th of September, 1939. It satirises the cynicism which lay at the heart of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, depicting Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin bowing politely before each other after their joint invasion of Poland, but nevertheless greeting each other respectively as "the scum of the earth" and "the bloody assassin of the workers".[5]


United Kingdom


  • National Library of Australia: The Collection holds 57 original drawings and 22 photo-lithographs individually catalogued with a number digitised (including drawings relating to The Billy Book); the Newspapers Collection holds many thousands of Low's cartoons, although none are digitised at present.

Selected Bibliography

  • Low's Annual (1908)
  • The Billy Book (1918)
  • Sketches by Low (1926)
  • Lions and Lambs (1928)
  • Low's Russian Sketchbook (1932)
  • Low Again (1938)
  • A Cartoon History of Our Times (1939)
  • Europe since Versailles (1940)
  • Europe at War (1941)
  • Years of Wrath: A Cartoon History 1932-45 (1949)
  • Low Visibility: A Cartoon History 1945-53 (1953)
  • Low's Autobiography (1956)
  • The Fearful Fifties: A History of the Decade (1960)


  1. ^ Lindesay, Vane. "Low, Sir David Alexander Cecil (1891 - 1963)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition. Retrieved 2006-06-03. 
  2. ^ Seymour-Ure, Colin. David Low. Secker & Warburg. p. 1. ISBN 0-436-44755-x Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help). 
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. ^ Exhibition celebrates the 20th Century's greatest cartoonist, BBC Worldwide Press Releases. Retrieved on 14 October 2008.
  5. ^ "The Statesman". Time. 27 September 1963. 

External links