British Cartoon Archive


Cliff Harper was born on 13 July 1949 in Chiswick, North London. His father was a postman, and his mother was a cook. Harper was expelled from school when he was thirteen, and at the age of fourteen was placed on two years' probation. He worked in a series of low-paid jobs, including one in the art department of a printworks, laying out trade catalogues. In 1968 he joined a commune in Cumberland, and in the same year produced his first published work - a poster defending a Vietnam War "draft dodger" who faced deportation. In 1969 he was one of the founders of London's Eel Pie Island commune.

A committed anarchist, Harper became a prolific illustrator for many radical and alternative publications during the 1970s, such as Undercurrents, Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, and his self-published Class War Comix project. Harper's utopian "Visions" series of posters, commissioned for the Undercurrents 1974 anthology Radical Technology, were described as "almost de rigueur decoration for the kitchen wall of any self-respecting radical's commune, squat or bedsit."

A self-taught artist, Harper acknowledges influences from comic books and the narrative woodcuts of Frans Masereel, as well as the work of Felix Valloton, Eric Gill, Juan Gris, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, the German Expressionists, and Man Ray. In the 1980s he developed a distinctive line-drawing style resembling a woodcut or lino-cut, although he has never worked in those media, and draws with a Rotring Rapidograph pen.

Harper is closely involved with the UK's annual Anarchist Bookfair, and with small press publishing projects - in 1987 writing and illustrating Anarchy, A Graphic Guide. In November 1996 he began contributing to the Guardian, and is a regular contributor to that paper, also working for Readers Digest and the Radio Times. In 2003 Harper's collected illustrations for the Guardian's regular "Country Diary" column were published in book form.

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