David Alexander Cecil Low

Born Dunedin, New Zealand 1891
Died London, England 1963

When he died the British press said Sir David Low might have been the most influential cartoonist of the 20th century. In a career spanning just over half of the century he produced an estimated 14,000 drawings and was syndicated worldwide to more than 200 publications.

Low was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and as a child he used most of his pocket money to buy comics so he could copy the drawings. Inspired by such English comics as ChipsComic Cuts and Larks at the age of 11 he won a drawing competition run by New Idea magazine. He later sold cartoons to The Spectator in Christchurch and soon joined the staff. He also sent cartoons to The Herald in Wellington and The Bulletin in Sydney. At the age of 18 he joined the staff of The Canterbury Times which was also published in Christchurch.

In his autobiography he wrote, “It was the dearest wish of all black and white artist to get into The Bulletin.” His wish was granted in 1911 when The Bulletin offered him a job in Melbourne to cartoon for the paper for six months. At the end of his six month stint he was put on staff and moved to Sydney in 1913.

Low was disappointed Norman Lindsay was given a full page for his drawings and he was not. He was also disappointed Lindsay was paid more. I did not help that Lindsay did not like him and said he was ruthlessly determined to get on.

When Billy Hughes became prime minister, Low took great delight in sending him up and in 1918 published The Billy Book, a collection of satirical drawings of Hughes in London. The book proved very popular and 60,000 copies were sold. Low even posted copies to a number of English newspapers. He was offered a job on The Star at £3000 a year.

Low soon disappeared from The Bulletin and Australia and had his first London cartoon published in The Star in October 1919. In 1927, he switched to The Evening Standard, where he had a guaranteed half-page four days a week to fill with his cartoons. It has been said, during the 1930s and 1940s Low probably produced more memorable cartoons than all his contemporaries combined.

When he moved onto The Daily Herald in 1950 it was news worldwide. Not happy there in February 1953, he started work on The Guardian where he stayed with his contract being renewed every three years and he continued cartooning till six months before he died.

Low was awarded honorary LL.D.s by the universities of New Brunswick (1958) and Leicester (1961), and while having rejected the thought of a kinghood, in 1962 he accepted one. Low’s cartoons appeared in approximately 200 newspapers and magazines in many different countries. He published 30 collections of his cartoons in book form and wrote Low's Autobiography (1956).

David Low entered the ACA Hall of Fame in 2010.

Further reading