Ronald Niebour was born in Streatham, London, on 4 April 1903, and educated at Barry County School with Leslie Illingworth. However, rather than following Illingworth to the local Cardiff Art School, he went to sea and spent two years in the Merchant Navy. Niebour was finally persuaded by his family to become a teacher. Encouraged by an uncle who was a Superintendent of Handicraft Teaching, he studied metalwork and woodwork and for three years taught handicrafts at schools in Birmingham, Weymouth and Kendal.
Self-taught as an artist, Niebour then managed to get a job as Football Cartoonist for the Barry Dock News and Cardiff Evening Express. He then worked for the Oxford Mail, drawing local sporting cartoons in the style of Tom Webster, plus caricatures and a daily children's strip, before moving to a staff job on the Birmingham Gazette and Birmingham Evening Despatch. As a later account noted, on these local papers Neb "was a man-of-all-work, sketching the many bits and pieces which a provincial newspaper needs, retouching photographs, tackling any old job."
Neb then submitted some of his sketches to the Daily Mail, and in 1938 was offered a job illustrating the Woman's Page and the Gardening Notes. He joined the staff on 26 September 1938. After the outbreak of the Second World War he moved to drawing pocket cartoons, which proved very popular. In 1942 London Opinion named Niebour - along with "Joss of the Star" - as one of the most popular pocket cartoonists in the national press, adding that "it is easy to understand the editorial popularity of the Pocket Cartoonist, in these days of paper shortages and four-page newspapers": "The artist who can get his joke across in a couple of square inches of newsprint is a man after the Editor's own heart." In 1945 a cutting of one of Neb's cartoons, from the Daily Mail of 15 January 1944, was found in the ruins of Hitler's Chancellery.
Niebour's pocket cartoons continued until his retirement from the Daily Mail on 1 December 1960. He also contributed to Punch, wrote articles, and drew advertisements for companies such as Winsor & Newton. He used a brush, and worked very quickly, drawing his pocket cartoons about a foot square. He specialized in characters with large button noses. Ronald Niebour died at his home in Benajarafe, near Malaga, Spain, on 19 July 1972.
- CSCC Archive, cuttings from London Opinion, January 1942, pp.47-9, and "Neb was in Hitler's files too", from Daily Mail, 13 August 1945.
- CSCC Archive, Daily Mail memo from H.S. Stovold, 15 February 1977.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.164-5.
1751 catalogued originals [NEB0001 - 1751]
40s; 50s (9/40 - 4/54)back to top