23rd Jan 2013
I know, I know. I’ve only managed two weeks after my Christmas break, and I’m already missing one. In my defence, this is a very complicated chapter, and I have a deadline on something else, various family commitments, and I’ve been moved to a new department in my day job and am learning the ropes. Plus, as I’ve probably never told this blog, I’ve been taking singing classes since last spring, and I have to learn my part of a song from Les Misérables, a show I’ve never seen, for Thursday. And my masked alter-ego has to stop my arch-enemy from destroying the world. All that. So once again, I crave your indulgence.
But I want to give you something. I’ve recently, with the aid of Irish Comic News, the Dublin cultural blog Come Here to Me!, and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, been able to reconstruct a biographical sketch of Phil Blake, a forgotten Irish cartoonist from the turn of the 20th century, over at the Irish Comics Wiki (check out the page of his cartoons and illustrations as well). Blake was born in Navan, County Meath, in 1869, the son of a farmer and Justice of the Peace, and seems to have started out drawing ads for Dublin businesses and theatre programmes, before taking over as the regular political cartoonist of the Weekly Freeman about 1898. He had a distinctive art nouveau style, and drew for the Freeman until about 1905, even getting a namecheck in James Joyce’s Ulysses. In 1908 he illustrated The Moneylender, a “controversial and scurrilous” novel about Jewish moneylenders in Dublin by Joseph Edelstein, a well-known if controversial member of Dublin’s Jewish community. Some time after that he relocated to Australia, where he illustrated fashion catalogues for a Sydney department store, and designed books of photographs by pioneering Australian photographer Harry Phillips. He died in Sydney in 1918, aged only 49.