H.M. Bateman, a man who went mad on paper, with Tony Anderson

For all lovers of the humorous arts, for connoisseurs of the cartoon, for all admirers of the distinct, the different and the absurd


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An extremely Illustrated Talk by Tony Anderson]. This talk coincides with a major retrospective of H.M. Bateman's work at the Cartoon Museum, and the publication of MIMODRAMES, a collection of H.M.Bateman’s wonderful and revolutionary strip-cartoons.

H.M.Bateman was the most celebrated cartoonist of the first half of the 20th century. To many lovers of the art of the cartoon he was simply the most original, the most various, the funniest genius of his times. Astonishingly prolific and inventive, everything he saw became material, so that his work can be read as a social history of Britain, as well as – to an extraordinary degree – a kind of highly-charged and absurdist autobiography. His family, his friends, the world around, his great enthusiasms for the Music Hall, for cars, for boxing, for golf, for new inventions, his triumphs and disasters over many years – all find their way into his cartoons.

His style changed radically over the years and the matter and form of his work took on an amazing range of expression and design – but it was always utterly distinct from the work of his contemporaries, immediately and recognizably his own. From the graceful elegance of his Edwardian cartoons to the stark brilliance of his strip- cartoons and the furious energy of his “Man Who....” series, his essential qualities of superb draughtsmanship, astonishing observation and a profound appreciation of humanity’s foibles, were always married to a wonderful wit and narrative perfection. He told marvellously funny stories in pictures.

He made at least three great and radical contributions to the art of the cartoon, changing the form for ever. In 1908, whilst suffering a nervous breakdown at the age of 21, he went “MAD ON PAPER” and freed the cartoon from it’s Victorian and conventional stillness. Then in 1916, during the Great War and suffering from deep depression, he created the first of his absurdist strip-cartoons without words, a form that was absolutely new to this country. And then, during the 1920s, he created his great series of “MAN WHO...” cartoons, anatomising the rigidity and dreadful constraints of British society. These rapidly passed into the mythology of the nation. All these contributions profoundly changed the landscape of humorous art and their effects can still be traced and seen today.


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Signed copies of MIMODRAMES (published in a bilingual French/English edition by Actes Sud and of Tony Anderson’s 1982 biography THE MAN WHO WAS H.M.BATEMAN, will be available.

2012Martin Keeley