Martyn Turner was born on 24 June 1948 in Wanstead, Essex, the son of Ernest Turner, a general dealer. He attended Bancroft's School, Woodford Green, and from 1967 to 1971 was at The Queen's University, Belfast. In 1970 Turner was involved with Tom Haddon, a law lecturer at Queen's University, in setting up the independent political magazine Fortnight.
A self-taught artist, Turner's first published cartoons appeared in June 1971 in The Irish Times and Belfast Sunday News. He was subsequently political cartoonist on the Belfast Sunday News from 1971 to 1974, and was also editor of Fortnight magazine from 1972 to 1976. In 1975 he was winner of the Hibernia Press Award for writing and cartooning. Since 1976 Turner has been political cartoonist on the Irish Times, from where his cartoons are reprinted weekly in the Belfast Telegraph and syndicated by the Cartoonists' and Writers' Syndicate, New York. He has also contributed to the Guardian and various foreign journals and has written occasional columns for the Irish Times, Christian Science Monitor, The Australian and the Belfast Telegraph.
In 1995 Turner was named Commentator of the Year in the Irish Media Awards, and was described by The Times as a cartoonist "whose political sketches in the Irish Times influence thinking on both sides of the border." In 1996 Turner described himself as "a non-unionist, non-nationalist, non-violent non-entity,"and argued "that the majority of people in Northern Ireland don't care about politics": "They are interested in jobs and secure homes. They vote along tribal lines but that does not mean they devote their entire lives to pursuing those goals." However, Sinn Fein still wrote to Turner accusing him of criticising the IRA more than the loyalists, and criticising him for allowing the Northern Ireland Office to use one of his cartoons showing Gerry Adams at a chess board, repeatedly shouting "Your Move." Turner told them "to grow up."
In 1998 Turner was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Ulster for his work "as a gifted and influential cartoonist", but his work has continued to attract criticism as well as widespread praise. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, both Turner and Tom Halliday had cartoons rejected by The Scotsman as too critical of America. In 2002 Turner was named European Political Cartoonist of the Year at the 30th Italian Festival of Satire, but in 2004 Michael Ross criticised his lack of "any apparent political philosophy", as a result of which "his work has tended towards the reductive and personal, treating his objects of hostility as singular and evil rather than as expressions of larger systems of values."
From 1996 to 1998 Turner was political cartoonist of the London Express and Sunday Express, and in 2000 Turner also provided cartoons for the London Independent. He works in brush and ink and uses acrylic and gouache for colour cartoons. Turner cites his influences as being Hewison, Emmwood and Searle.
- Paul Johnson "Ulster's mouthpiece for all: Focus on the political magazine 'Fortnight'," The Guardian, 7 January 1985.
- Nicholas Watt "Sinn Fein accuses cartoonist of 'cruelty' to Adams", The Times, 2 January 1996.
- Peter Lennon "Who's Calling the Toon?", The Guardian, 4 January 1996, p.T12.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.228-9.
- Martin Rowson "Drawing on Sentiment," Evening Standard, 28 November 2001, p.57.
- Michael Ross "Even at its best, Turner's work was lacking the savage indignation required", Sunday Times, 26 September 2004, p.12.
58 uncatalogued originals [MT0001 - 0058]