Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My name is George du Maurier – where do I cut my initials?

A du Maurier cut in Punch, August 26, 1865

 by Huib van Opstal

You have a French father and an English mother. You’ve gone through several depressions already. Not least the one following the loss of sight in your left eye in 1858, at twenty-four. Yet, you persist in realizing your dream of drawing and writing for a London weekly called Punch.

Within years you are one of their finest. Late in 1864, with the passing of well-known Punch artist John Leech, you are invited to join the Punch staff, to take Leech’s empty chair at the weekly dinner, and to cut your initials ‘DM’ right beside his signature on the Punch table at number 10, Bouverie Street.

The tall, pretty women you draw in endless repetition attract most attention. You become Punch’s exclusive society reporter in cartoons and illustrations. You write satires and do strips. Most of it in a near realistic style, long before ‘photo journalism’ takes off.

For decades you excel in the tough technique of drawing directly on boxwood, depending on woodcutters who by necessity have to destroy your artwork to realise the finished printed product.

The type of drawing shown above is what you – seemingly carefree – offer the public in the summer of ’65. In a state of bliss, you confidently ‘sign’ it with carved initials too.

Much later E.-V. Lucas muses about George du Maurier:
“…if ever a man worshipped beauty it was he. Not only did he worship it, but he created it. The remark that, by his celebration in Punch of tall and graceful types, du Maurier added 2 inches to the height of English woman has often been made; and, such is the imitative adaptability of women, it is probably true…”

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