Monday, February 23, 2015

Phil May (1863-1904)

"Shave, or hair cut, sir?" "Corns, you fool!
Phil May (1863-1904) was an English cartoonist known for his deft and economical pen-and-ink caricatures. He grew up around the theater, so he was familiar with music hall actors and types. 

Benevolent Lady (distributing tract to inebriate, who has refused to accept one), "Do take one. If you read it, it will do you good."
Drunk (pulling himself together), —"Madam, I writes 'em."

He went to London and was so poor for a while that he slept on park benches, and he got to know all the varieties of gutter snipes. He portrayed them with a kindly wit and a sympathetic eye.

"Mos' 'stronary thing! a' most shertain th'was shome coffee in it."

He was so prolific that a publication came out using just his pictures, "Phil May's Illustrated." His cartoons of drunks and street characters made him wealthy and famous. 

Portrait of Phil May by J. J. Shannon
He liked to wear colorful outfits. According to John Lavery, "The last time we met he came to his studio door wearing the loudest suit I had ever seen. Seeing my look of surprise, he smiled and said, 'Come in and listen to it, dear boy.'"

ARTIST: 'My good man, may I have the honour of sketching your likeness? I am Mr. Phil May."
RUSTIC:  'Oh! are yer? Then, this time you'll be Mr. Phil Mayn't."


Rich said...

"Madam, I writes 'em."...ha ha ha...LOL...
Didn't know Phil May. Thanks once more for your educate' insights.

Phil May; Wow! What an acute erhh...what an accurate pencil:-)

N C Freeman said...

I love the quote attributed to May when a critic accused him of producing drawings with an extreme economy of line; he said that if he could produce the effect he was after with even fewer lines he would charge more for his drawings!

Smurfswacker said...

A long time ago I read in some illustration history book that May achieved his economy of line by repeated tracings of a drawing, each time leaving out more, until he had the effect he wanted. I don't know if this is true, but it's an interesting idea.

James Gurney said...

Smurfswacker, Yes, I read that too somewhere. Apparently the ease of the surface belied a lot of preparatory work.

N.C Freeman's quote captures that perfectly.

Rich, There are so many great French and English and Australian and Italian illustrators that aren't well known in the USA. I'll keep digging.

Norman Boyd said...

James, have you seen this article I put on my blog for Jim Vadeboncoeur?

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Norman, I added the link to the Lilliput magazine article.

Maysun said...

''Come in and listen to it, dear boy.'" is pretty hilarious too. Must have been a wonderful person, with that sense of humor. :-)