Norman Mansbridge was born on 22 July 1911 in Wanstead, Essex, the son of Arthur Mansbridge, a writer and illustrator of children's books. Mansbridge attended Forest School, at Snaresbrook in Essex, and studied art at Heatherley's in London. Apprenticed to a commercial art studio, he then spent several years in advertising before becoming a freelance cartoonist, contributing his first drawing to Punch in 1937. After the outbreak of war in 1939 he served in the Auxiliary Fire Service, but in 1940 joined the Merchant Navy as a wireless operator. In the Merchant Navy he also had a roving commission as a war artist.
Demobbed in 1945, Mansbridge returned to London and worked for the News Chronicle, Men Only, Sunday Times, Radio Times, Lilliput, Daily Sketch and Birmingham Post. In September 1955 he became the only cartoonist to have had eight colour pages in a single issue of Punch, with the publication of "The Pursuit of Happiness," a moral tale of life in Britain, similar to Hogarth's "Marriage Ã la Mode." In 1958 he was elected a member of the Punch Table, and became the magazine's political cartoonist. He alternated with Illingworth in drawing Punch's weekly political cartoon, but had no abiding interest in politics. "I've no real political convictions" Mansbridge explained, adding that "I don't mind whether it's Wilson or Heath who's being knocked": "An editorial committee works out the idea at lunch, then I go off and do it."
In 1965 Mansbridge was regularly employed drawing a series called "Line-Up" for the Daily Sketch, consisting of a panel of three topical cartoons. These were published five days a week - originally with the byline "By Our Mann." The deadline for the first edition of the Daily Sketch was 3.00pm, and Mansbridge explained that "I start the day by reading all the papers, because the jokes have to be drawn from the day's news - and what's more important, news which is likely to have been absorbed by Sketch readers. By the time I reach the office I usually have an idea to work on." The roughs were approved by the editor, and the cartoons completed in the office.
Mansbridge also taught art, and exhibited oil paintings at the Royal Academy. He did advertising work - for Vantella shirts among other products, and drew covers for books - such as Basil Boothroyd's The Whole Thing's Laughable in 1964. A member of the Savage Club, he was one of the founder members of the British Cartoonists' Association in 1966.
Mansbridge was happiest drawing suburban families, similar to those of Alex Graham, and admitted to being genuinely upset at the realisation that they were in fact highly disfunctional. At the time, he told an interviewer in 1967, he was producing cartoons for the Radio Times: "They were illustrations of Mums and Dads and dogs, all very jolly, until one day a friend said to me 'You've caught the real horror of suburbia there.' And the more I thought about it, the more I could see that he was right." As he explained, "You walk around suburban streets, and there's no one going in or out of the houses": "The biggest horror is that the whole world's becoming suburban. I find it very worrying."
In 1968 he then decided to retire as Daily Sketch cartoonist, being succeeded by Stan McMurtry. Mansbridge turned to producing strips for IPC and Fleetway children's comics such as Tiger, Shiver and Shake and Whizzer and Chips. These featured even more disfunctional suburban characters. "Fuss Pot", built around an arrogant little girl and her parents, first appeared in Knockout in June 1971, and ran for twenty years. "Tough Nutt and Softly Centre", starring the butch Tough Nutt and his effete artistic friend Softly Centre, began in Shiver and Shake in 1973, but was axed the following year.
"Mummy's Boy" was perhaps the strangest of all of Mansbridge's comic creations, featuring a child who was almost a teenager, but was still wheeled around in a pram by his overbearing mother. It began in Monster Fun in 1975 and ran until 1987. The strips were unsigned. In May 1979 Mansbridge drew "Little and Large Lenny" for the first issue of the comic Jackpot, which also featured the first "Gremlins" strip by Steve Bell.
Mansbridge worked first in pencil and then with a fountain pen and black ink, preferring to memorize a subject rather than draw it on the spot. He died on 6 March 1993.
- Philip Oakes "Punch Artists in Profile: Norman Mansbridge", Punch, 15 March 1967, pp.378-9.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), p.151.
99 catalogued originals [NM0001 - 0099]
3 uncatalogued originals [PU1427 - 1429]
1 framed uncatalogued original