Raymond Jackson was born in the Middlesex Hospital, London, on 11 March 1927, the son of Maurice Jackson, a tailor who worked in the garment industry. An only child, Jackson was small and weedy, and at school was nicknamed "Winkle". He was also short-sighted, and had to wear thick glasses from the age of two. Educated at Clipstone Road School (with illustrator Peter Jackson) and Lyulph Stanley School, he studied at Willesden School of Art from 1941 to 1943. In 1945 he joined the army as a National Serviceman, spending three years in the Army Education Corps teaching conscripts to paint.
In 1948 Jackson returned to Willesden School of Art to take a two-year National Diploma in Design. He then became a commercial artist, and his first job in 1950 was for Link House Publishing, publishers of the naturist magazine Health and Efficiency. Here he re-touched pubic hairs on nude photographs, and drew joke cartoons. In 1951, after getting the sack, he joined Keymers Advertising Agency, while contributing to Punch, Lilliput and other publications as a freelance cartoonist. In 1952 he left Keymers to work in the advertising department of the Evening Standard, quickly transferring to the art department, where he drew general illustrations and small cartoons for the sports page, and illustrations for the TV page.
In 1958 Victor Weisz ("Vicky") arrived at the paper as political cartoonist, and the two men disliked each other intensely. After one argument, Weisz avoided Jackson for years, using the back stairs to get to his office so that they would not meet. "I'm only pulling the bloke's leg", Jackson recalled later, "but once it got past a joke and we didn't speak to each other for two years, ha, ha." The two men were quite different in temperament and outlook. Dedicated to fitness, and a black belt in judo, Jackson was fascinated by physical danger. In July 1964 the Evening Standard sent him - at his own request - to Malaya to train with the British Army, and this was followed by assignments as cartoonist and writer to the Golan Heights, and to anti-colonial wars in Borneo and Aden, where he chummed up with members of the SAS. "There are some violent, dangerous people about" he told an interviewer in 1965: "I don't agree with violence, but you've got to protect yourself."
When Weisz committed suicide in 1966, Jackson was suggested as his replacement, and although the editor of the Evening Standard, Charles Wintour, had doubts, he was given the job. As editorial cartoonist Jackson developed a style based on that of Giles at the Daily Express, full of figures and detail. However, his politics were further to the right than those of Giles, and he was capable of being more caustic. As the journalist Duncan Campbell noted at the time, "it is ironic that Jak should have inherited the cartoonist's job from Vicky who killed himself in despair at the proliferation of the sort of attitudes that Jak encourages."
Jackson almost always used a high viewpoint in his cartoons, giving them a cinematic feel - Keith Waite argued that his work "owes a lot to TV": "His square is much like a TV screen." Jackson claimed to be a "social" rather than a "political" cartoonist, and his work more often featured stereotypes than recognisable individuals. As a result, his barbed attacks managed to offend large numbers of people. On 9 December 1970 he drew a cartoon attacking the power workers as bone-headed throwbacks - "Homo-electrical-sapiens Britannicus" - and this brought an immediate protest from the Evening Standard's printers, who stopped the presses. Production was resumed only when the paper agreed to carry a letter next to Jackson's cartoon, giving the printers' opinion that it was "beyond the bounds of humour and fair comment."
Jackson's approach to his work was very commercial. He was noted for the authentic details in his drawings, and developed the habit of including trade or company names in his cartoons - such as OCL containers or J.M. Turnell & Co. This created a ready market for his originals among company executives, at up to £300 each, and Jak did all he could to take advantage of this. According to Miles Kington, “if he had a building site worker with ‘Bovis’ writ large on his coat, someone from Bovis would inevitably ring up with an offer. But he did not stop there. He then discovered that if you mentioned more than one brand name, you could get more for it.” Jak drew cartoons featuring up to three building workers with different companies’ names on their jackets - McAlpine, Wimpey, and Murphy in one October 1971 cartoon. I that case, according to Kington, “the three companies would have an auction to secure the drawing from him, thus getting a much better price.”
In September 1975 Jak signed a lucrative new contract with the Evening Standard, running until he was sixty-five. This secured him in his place on the paper, and seems to have encouraged him to be even bolder in his commercial ventures. Jackson was now providing Saturday cartoons for the Daily Express, as well as working for the Standard, and he made an arrangement with a publicity company for its clients' products to appear in his cartoons. In his Daily Express cartoon of 18 March 1978, the company's managing director Tom Richards even appeared as "T. Richards Chemist", with a shop selling a range of the products he represented.
This relationship is evident in Jackson's frequent references to Dettol, Bonjela, Cossack Hairspray, and other products. In October 1979 Richards wrote proudly to Reckitt & Coleman that "JAK has not produced a hospital or medical cartoon in 1979 where Dettol has not been mentioned." Yet sometimes he needed guiding. On 16 February 1980 his Daily Express cartoon contained references to Dettol and Lloyds Cream, which brought a letter from Richards thanking him for the Dettol reference, but pointing out that the company no longer handled Lloyds Cream, so he should not push it. Jackson's arrangement with Richards was exposed by Private Eye soon afterwards, which ended these commercial links, although Jackson continued to do straight advertising work for Carling Black Label beer and others. In March 1981 he slyly included a Private Eye "Dettol Issue" in one of his cartoons.
Jackson's work continued to generate comment. In 1975 the Evening Standard observed that "Jak is fair, Jak has a go at everybody." The paper's editor, Charles Wintour, defended him against censorship, but, as the journalist Duncan Campbell commented, "what he did not seem to accept was that Jak's 'freedom' has allowed him to picture all black medics as primitive witch-doctors and all Irishmen as dumb navvies." Jackson's mother was Irish, but in October 1982 he included a spoof film poster in his Evening Standard cartoon, advertising "The Ultimate in Psychopathic Horror - THE IRISH." Ken Livingstone's Greater London Council complained to the Press Council that this cartoon was racist, and when the Council ruled that it was simply a brutal cartoon on a brutal theme, the GLC withdrew all its advertising from the paper.
Jackson's private life was one of champagne and hard drinking, parties, long lunches, and fast cars with personalised number-plates. His friends found him warm and generous, but his attacks on individuals could be savage. In 1984 his cartoon of a heavily-bandaged Norman Tebbit, mummy-like after the IRA Brighton bombing, drew letters of protest from Conservative MPs. He also claimed to have been the first cartoonist to break the unwritten rule against cartooning the Royal Family, although Prince Philip became a collector of his originals. The ultimate constraint over his work came not from politics but from circulation, and he was careful over matters of taste, noting that "The Standard is a very moral paper, and I can't do some of the things I see other cartoonists doing."
Jackson was known at the Evening Standard as "Uncle Jak", and his office had a sign on the door reading "Uncle Jak's Cabin". As one journalist recalled, "the room behind it contained a large and squishy leather sofa...and a fridge stocked only with champagne": "Here, dressed in a blue and white striped butcher's apron, Jak would start work by seven each morning, doodling and sketching ideas as he read the morning papers. Within a couple of hours he had rough versions of several possible cartoons and captions, which he then tried out on journalists around the office before showing them to the paper's editor." He roughed cartoons out in 2B pencil on A2 layout paper.
The editor would choose the day's cartoon at around 9.00am. As one Evening Standard journalist noted of the rejected cartoons, "some don't get in because they don't come off": "Some are discarded because even Jak thinks they are over the top and some because they are possibly libellous." Jackson would work on the final version of the cartoon until about 2.00pm, using Pelikan ink (brush and mapping pen) on board for the finished artwork, and calling up photographs from the Evening Standard Library to make sure that well-known backgrounds were drawn correctly. His cartoons often featured prominent buildings and locations, which he took pride in drawing accurately. However, he always drew hands with three fingers in the style of Disney animators and signed his name in capitals with 'blob' serifs.
After finishing his cartoon, Jackson would check it for errors by holding it up to a mirror, and viewing it reversed. He then took a long lunch, often returning to fall asleep on his sofa. A final scrutiny of his cartoons was meanwhile carried out by the Evening Standard's lawyer, who sometimes rejected them. "This really annoys him," observed a colleague: "'Every time he stops a cartoon I want to hit him', he says. 'Of course libel is a fact of life but what is it but censorship?'"
In 1986 Jackson also began contributing to the Mail on Sunday. As a colleague noted, Jackson "considered himself an impartial observer, by which he meant he went for everyone." He was certainly proud of his work, believing himself to be a good artist, and knowing its importance to the papers that employed him. However, there were many who did not share his own opinion of his achievements. "At his jaded worst," his Times obituary admitted, "he offered little more than saloon bar prejudice with pictures." Always at home among soldiers and policemen, Jackson continued to be invited to SAS reunions, and after he died at his Wimbledon home on 27 July 1997, following a heart operation, the band of the Welch Guards played at his funeral. He was resurrected as the cartoonist "Stan" - swigging champagne while "composing his stereotypical vision of England" - in A.N. Wilson's 2004 novel "My Name is Legion".
- "Jak goes to war (No.1): The Humourist's View of Life in the Jungle", Evening Standard, 22 July 1964.
- Michael Bateman Funny Way to Earn a Living: A Book of Cartoons and Cartoonists (Leslie Frewin, London, 1966), pp.34-5.
- "Londoner's Diary: Cartoonists No.3", Evening Standard, 8 September 1975, p.12.
- Duncan Campbell "The Standard of the News", Time Out, 6-12 February 1976, p.11.
- CSCC archive, Rosette Glaser's interview with Keith Waite, 15 September 1976.
- "Jak of all trades", Private Eye, 16 January 1981, p.20.
- Private Eye, 30 January 1981, p.8, "Letters".
- Angus McGill "Jak: Some of his best friends are Irish", The Standard, 7 March 1983, p.19.
- CSCC Archive, John Harvey "Stiletto in the Ink: British Political Cartoons", c.1994, p.14.
- "Tributes as Cartoonist Jak Dies at 70", Daily Mail, 28 July 1997, p.5.
- "Obituaries: Jak", Times, 29 July 1997, p.19.
- Eva Kingdon "Raymond 'Jak' Jackson: Metropolitan Line", Guardian, 29 July 1997, p.14.
- "Obituaries: Raymond Jackson", Daily Telegraph, 29 July 1997, p.21.
- Tom Utley "Tributes to Jak easily drawn from his targets", Daily Telegraph, 29 July 1997.
- Mark Bryant "Obituary: Jak", Independent, 29 July 1997, p.14.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), p.124.
- Miles Kington "Leadership and the art of the caricature", The Independent, 5 October 2001.
- Christian Adams' Cartoon Blog at blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/christianadams/ [entry for 22 July 2008]
3 unaccessioned originals
1 framed unaccessioned MO0018
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