Nicholas Withycombe Garland was born on 1 September 1935 in Hampstead, London, the son of Thomas Garland, a doctor, and the sculptor Peggy Garland. “My parents were Communists”, he later recalled, “active, proselytising Reds. They broke with the party in 1947, but never lost their belief in Socialism.” In 1946, at the age of eleven, his family emigrated to New Zealand, but in 1954, aged nineteen, Garland returned to London to study at the Slade School of Fine Art.
In London Garland discovered Wally Fawkes’ “Flook” strip in the Daily Mail. “I had a passion for the work of Will Elder, Walt Wood and Jack Davis in Mad magazine,” he recalled later, “all of whom scattered caricatures of well-known figures through their marvellous comic strips. And suddenly here was a British artist...matching them, joke for joke and caricature for caricature. I was a fan from the start.” Garland graduated in 1957, and his first published drawing appeared some six years later, after he had been working as stage manager and director at the Royal Court Theatre. It was a caricature, and was commissioned by Queen magazine, after the editor, Mark Boxer, had seen some of his sketches. Garland then contributed illustrations to the arts pages of the Spectator.
Garland also met Peter Cook, through theatrical connections, and began an association with Private Eye. In 1964 he and a friend devised a strip about "Alan Merryweather", a strong-jawed northerner who came to London. It was accepted for Private Eye, but the editor, Richard Ingrams, asked for the central character to be changed into an Australian, and suggested that Barry Humphries should write it. The strip was christened "Barry Mackenzie", after Barry Humphries himself and the Australian fast bowler Graham McKenzie. Yet visually, as Garland recalled, "Barry Mackenzie's chin was taken from Desperate Dan, and his double-breasted suit, striped tie and wide-brimmed hat were inspired by a group of middle-aged Anzacs I once saw marching down Whitehall during a Remembrance Day parade."
The strip first appeared as a full-page entitled "Barry McKensie [sic] / Australian at large", in Private Eye No.67 of 10 July 1964. By the second episode the spelling had changed to the more familiar "McKenzie". Humphries wrote the scripts, and Garland recalled that "in all the time we worked together we rarely spent very long deciding on the direction a new episode might take": "Barry would introduce a new character or situation without necessarily knowing how the story would develop. He was more interested in setting up a joke or making an opportunity for himself to jeer at some element of English life that he found particularly repellent or fatuous." For his part Garland confessed that he "usually drew in a tearing hurry", as they were paid only £15 per episode between the two of them and he "could not afford to spend too much time on the strip."
In March 1966 Garland joined the Daily Telegraph, being offered the job after the deputy editor saw a caricature he had drawn for The Spectator, of Richard Crossman, then Labour Minister of Housing. The job was not straightforward, for not only was Garland the paper's first political cartoonist, but there was also a radical difference between its right-wing politics and his own left-wing bohemian background. “Everything I believed in came under immediate attack”, he later acknowledged, “Many of my old friends and most of my family thought I had become an honorary Nazi, but I hadn't. The Telegraph has always given a home to eccentrics and odd-balls. I fitted in perfectly well.”
Garland later recalled that his first cartoons for the Daily Telegraph were over-complicated: "short histories of the world in a space about four and a half inches deep across four columns." However, he simplified his style after Colin Welch, the paper's deoputy editor, told him that "Your work is too earth-bound...there is no need to obey the rules of perspective, logic, or gravity...absolutely anything can happen." Garland admitted feeling liberated, and "began to find cartooning easier."
From 1971 to 1976 Garland also drew a weekly political cartoon for the New Statesman, and contributed to the Spectator - including colour covers. He also continued to draw "Barry Mackenzie" for Private Eye. Two films featuring the character were made - The Adventures of Barry Mackenzie (1972) and Barry Mackenzie Holds His Own (1974) - in both of which scriptwriter Barry Humphries played the part of Mackenzie's aunt Edna Everidge. The films caused problems with the censor even in Australia, but the strip continued to run in Private Eye until 1974, when it closed after a disagreement with the editor Richard Ingrams. This focused on the episode drawn for 8 March 1974, which, according to one contemporary report, included "rather explicit lesbianism", and was refused by Ingrams even when amended. Garland thought that Ingrams had in fact become bored with the strip.
In 1986 Garland left the Daily Telegraph to be one of the founders of The Independent, where he had "a lovely office looking over Bunhill Fields". He had freedom to draw what he liked, noting in 1988 that political cartoonists derive most of their impact from their ability to express contrasting views to the rest of the paper, with economy and impact. "I never like editorial conferences about cartoons", he wrote, "and I never show roughs to my editors...because conferences and discussions tend to elaborate views and opinions instead of paring them down."
However, Garland found himself increasingly unhappy at The Independent. At the end of 1990 he decided to return to the Daily Telegraph, displacing George Gale who had been brought in as his replacement. Garland later acknowledged that his return in February 1991 was "one of the most sensible things I've ever done", and Max Hastings, the Daily Telegraph's editor, considered it an important success, marking a significant strengthening of the paper's criticism of John Major's government. "We've sometimes been very critical of this government in our leader columns and in articles we write", he noted, "but I honestly don't think that anything critical of Mr. Major that we have said has had anything like the devastating impact of the line that Nick Garland draws very often in his cartoons of the weak, frightened little rabbit of a man who's Prime Minister."
Garland at first produces roughs on A4 layout paper using 3B pencil. He then transfers to Daler NOT wash-and-line board and a Sheaffer fountain pen (fine and medium nib) with Sheaffer cartridge ink, using indian ink with a brush for filling in large areas. In 1994 Garland explained that he arrived at the Daily Telegraph around midday, and his method of working involved "reading newspapers, turning over ideas, listening occasionally to news bulletins on the radio until you've worked out what the main story is likely to be...if you haven't already dealt with that too much too many times recently." There was no editorial intervention, but Garland would chat to Matthew Pritchett - the paper's pocket cartoonist "Matt" - and by about 3.00pm was working on a cartoon. The deadline was around 7.00pm, by which time Garland would "go and see the editor or his deputy...with a finished drawing."
In 1998 Garland was awarded the OBE. "Unlike with some cartoonists," commented Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore in 2003, "his brain is always engaged before his hand starts to work": "His approach to his work is conceptual, as well as graphic. Very rarely do I tell him exactly what to draw, let alone invent the joke for his cartoon. The idea is almost always his own, but it is often provoked by some semi-chance remark. We enjoy rubbing literary or artistic or historical parallels up against one another until they strike fire." In 2005 Garland acknowledged that his method was still to consult his colleagues - especially Matt - over his roughs, but to show the editor only the final version. Moore's replacement as editor, Martin Newland, might occasionally describe the resulting cartoon as "Left-wing bollocks", but, as Garland added, "if he didn't carry it there'd be a bloody great hole in the paper."
Garland has also drawn cartoons for the Investor's Chronicle, and designed book jackets. More recently he has concentrated in his cartoons on pen and wash drawing, using Aquarelle Arches cold-pressed watercolour paper. As well as drawing cartoons, Garland also paints and makes prints, and in 2004 it was noted that he "spends the morning working on his own woodcuts and paintings, and travels to Canary Wharf in the afternoon to draw his political cartoon." As he acknowledged in 2005, the transition to colour was not straightforward. "I'd been brought up looking at cartoons in black and white, and for me that's what cartoons were," he explained: "Black and white can have a punch, a simple strength, that colour can't."
Garland argues that cartoons "are merely telling people what they already know in a highly simplified form." He is an admirer of Vicky, whom he met on one occasion, and who was Garland's hero even before he became a political cartoonist. Vicky was a considerable influence on his style - fellow cartoonist Martin Rowson commenting acidly that Garland in fact "draws exactly like Vicky on a slow news day, only without the gags." However, gags are not central to Garland's work. As he observes, "at least half the time, cartoonists are commenting on and reflecting ghastly events and are trying to disturb rather than amuse": "Comical mockery is only one weapon of political cartooning."
In his turn, Garland objects to the grotesque style of cartoonists like Rowson. "Nowadays there is a school of cartoons that depicts ordinary politicians who have come to power in an open, democratic tradition as weird, putrefying monsters," he observed in 2005: "They look as though they have fallen out of ridiculous horror films. All blood-flecked, claws and fangs. It is a topsy-turvy world in which the freer the society, the more grotesquely its politicians are caricatured." The style seems inappropriate to Garland, and suggests that cartoonists take themselves too seriously - "its not as though we do much damage."
Garland left the Daily Telegraph in March 2011.
- The Times, 29 March 1974; p.18, "The Times Diary."
- Nicholas Garland "The Birth of Bazza", The Spectator, 29 October 1988, pp.33-4.
- Barry Humphries and Nicholas Garland "The Complete Barry McKenzie" (Methuen, London, 1988). [Despite the title this volume omits the early episodes, which were replaced by three newly-drawn strips. The fourth strip is the first of the original series, having first appeared in Private Eye No.77 of 11 December 1964, five months after "Barry McKenzie" began.]
- Jack Duncan "Strip Cultivation", The Spectator, 12 November 1988, p.27.
- Nicholas Garland "Political Cartooning", in John Durant and Jonathan Miller (eds) Laughing Matters: A Serious Look at Humour (Longman, Harkow, 1988), pp.75-89.
- CSCC Archive, John Harvey interview with Nicholas Garland, 7 February 1994.
- CSCC Archive, John Harvey "Stiletto in the Ink: British Political Cartoons", c.1994, p.10.
- Nicholas Garland "In Praise of Vicky, the Great Master", Parliamentary Brief, January 1996, pp.68-9.
- Martin Rowson "Professors of cross-hatching", The Independent, 1 June 1997, p.40.
- Nicholas Garland, "Political Cartooning", Quiplash: Journal of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive Trust, Vol. 7 (1998), p.7.
- Charles Moore "Artist or Cartoonist?", Daily Telegraph, 14 May 2003, p.22.
- Sam Leith "It cuts both ways", The Daily Telegraph, 12 June 2004, Books p.2.
- Nicholas Garland “Undimmed, inimitable Trog, doyen of cartoonists, is entering his ninth decade”, Sunday Telegraph, 20 June 2004, p.7.
- Nicholas Garland "What makes cartoons great", The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2005, p.24.
- Nicholas Garland “How I found a new home at the Telegraph”, Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2005, p.23.
- Nicholas Garland speaking at "Cartooning the USA: America Through the Pen of Political Cartoonists", British Library, London, 18 October 2005.
- Joy Lo Dico “20 Years of 'The Independent'”, The Independent, 8 October 2006, p.14.
- Charles Moore “The Spectator's Notes”, The Spectator, 26 March 2011, p.11.
7487 originals and copies (NG0001 - 7487)
2 boxes unaccessioned book illustrations
2 boxes rough sketches and unpublished works
22 uncatalogued unaccessioned
38 photos - Box: Drawer 12 (B)
1 ink rough sketch (unsigned) - in Drawer 11 (B) box (Bay 3)
Barry Mackenzie (with Barry Humphries - writer):
224 uncatalogued originals [BM0001 - 0224]
1 artwork of life-size cut-out of himself NG8272
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