Ewbank’s To Sell The William ‘Bill’ Hewison Studio Collection Of Theatrical And Political Cartoons

Online sale on December 9-10 in conjunction with The Auction Room

Original cartoons and caricatures by legendary cartoonist William “Bill” Hewison which for 30 years kept readers of Punch, The Times, The Listener, The Oldie and Europe magazine smiling are to be sold by Ewbank’s, Surrey’s premier auctioneer of fine art and antiques. The collection comes directly from the artist’s studio and is being sold by Ewbank’s on behalf of his family.

Punch Spring number front cover, Mr Punch in a cuckoo's nest £ 120-180

Punch Spring number front cover, Mr Punch in a cuckoo’s nest £ 120-180

The sale of more than 1,000 original drawings by Hewison, art editor of Punch from 1960-1984, will be held over two days on December 9-10. The collection will be on view in part in London and in its entirety at Ewbank’s saleroom in Guildford and bidding will be online only, courtesy of The Auction Room, the UK’s leading virtual saleroom.

When asked what he missed having left Punch, editor Alan Coren said wryly, it wasn’t the limos, the yachts, or the voluptuous assistants. He said: “What I miss most is those Tuesday mornings with the sadly late and very great Bill Hewison, my brilliant art editor, when we would sit at a huge leather-topped desk overlooking the complete absence of central heating, pull off our generously lent company mittens, and sift through the hundreds and hundreds of roughs submitted by the extraordinary numbers of extraordinary cartoonists which – and, remember, I speak as a writer – made Punch the brilliant and, most important of all, hilarious magazine it was. I miss the six hours of those golden-era Tuesdays when Bill and I would struggle – handicapped by constant helpless laughter – to choose, from 20 times as many, the 50-odd cartoons we needed to lift the readers’ spirits and break their ribs in next week’s magazine.”

Ewbank’s sale will showcase Hewison’s original artwork for no fewer than 40 iconic Punch front covers, together with numerous cartoons printed on its pages throughout the period he was associated with it.

Another highlight is the collection within a collection of 250 cartoons for theatrical reviews for Punch until its closure in 1992 and subsequently commissioned by The Times. Hewison was a theatre caricaturist for 30 years. The sale offers the opportunity to purchase a caricature of virtually every actor who has been in a major production on the London stage from 1960-2000. Each drawing is inscribed with the name of the play, the theatre in which it was being staged, the opening date and, most importantly, the names of the actors and actresses depicted, making the cartoons a unique archive in their own right.

The cartoons include caricatures of such performers as Laurence Olivier; John Gielgud; Kenneth Branagh; Greta Scacci; Christopher Casenove; Ruthie Henshall; Cleo Laine; Nicholas Lyndhurst; Barry Morse; Helen Baxendale; Dawn French; Jessica Lange; Jeffrey Archer; Michael Sheen; Frances de la Tour; Brian Blessed; Roy Hudd; Alan Rickman; Albert Finney; Alan Bates; Miranda Richardson; Julie Walters; Sandi Dennie; Felicity Kendall; Michael Gambon; Ian Mckellen; Petula Clarke; Timothy Spall; Dinsdale Landen; Eric Porter; Cliff Richard; Sheila Gish; Lionel Blair; Joanna Lumley and many many others. They will be sold separately.

Elsewhere the collection includes topical, political and simply humorous cartoons such as one lampooning the “BBC Censorship Department”, its male and female members sitting naked in a bath; President Nixon; “The British in Los Angeles”; “Salvador Dali as he might have been”, showing the eccentric lying on a psychiatrist’s couch being consulted by a likeness of himself; a grotesque old man holding a glass eye; “Three monarchs perhaps the gloomiest, the greatest and the filthiest; “If we had a Fascist Britain; “The scene at London termini at this time of year makes one doubt whether we are really preparing our young for the infinite variety of adult life”; and “Tribute to Gerald Scarfe”.

The 1,050 individual drawings will be sold in 578 lots, of which 464 are single cartoons. Estimates are highly affordable, ranging from £30 to £300. The most valuable single lot comprises Hewison’s original 19 illustrations published in Roy Lewis’s 1959 book “What we did to Father”, a story charting human evolution, centred on the lives of a Stone Age family. It is estimated at £200-300.

A selection of around 100 lots from the collection will be on public view in central London at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, 24 Maddox Street W1 from 9.30am to 5.30pm from November 17-21. The entire collection will be on view at Ewbank’s saleroom at Burnt Common, London Road, Send, GU23 7LN, immediately prior to the sale from 10am to 5pm on Monday December 8.

Bidding will be entirely online at The Auction Room via the online catalogue for the collection which will be available from Monday October 20 at www.theauctionroom.com. Final bidding takes place over two sessions, on Tuesday December 9 and Wednesday December 10, with both auctions starting at 10am. Registration at www.theauctionroom.com is required prior to bidding.

About the artist

William “Bill” Hewison (1925-2002) was born in South Shields, County Durham, the youngest son in a family of greengrocers. His father was a sign maker and decorator, and the young Hewison began to paint and draw at an early age. He attended South Shields Art School from 1941 to 1943 but his training was interrupted during the Second World War, during which time he served as a gunner and a wireless operator with the 1st Royal Tank Regiment in France and Egypt. On demobilisation, he returned to study painting and obtained an Art Teacher’s Diploma, which he put to use as the assistant art master at The Latymer School in Hammersmith from 1950-56. His first cartoon was published in 1949 in the saucy literary magazine Lilliput, and he began contributing to Punch from 1950.

In 1956, after years of work as a freelance artist, Hewison was invited to join the Punch editorial board as deputy art editor. He won the position over Quentin Blake, only because, Hewison said, he was Blake’s senior. He became art editor in 1960 and was responsible, with the editor, for selecting all of the cartoons that would appear in the magazine. Hewison also contributed to Punch in his own right as an illustrator, cartoonist and cover artist and, from 1961, as the theatre caricaturist, a job that he inherited from Ronald Searle, partially because Hewison had worked as an amateur actor during his school days. He loved the theatre, and grew to love this job, which he continued after he left Punch.

Hewison worked subsequently for various other publications, and when Punch closed in 1992, he began to work as theatre caricaturist for The Times. He exhibited at the National Theatre every five years, beginning in 1980, and his drawings of various actors are now in countless private collections. Until his death in 2002, Hewison continued to be a presence at lunches around the famous Punch table carved with the initials of staff and contributors, including his own, to which only the most distinguished literary figures and humorists were invited.

Interestingly, Hewison’s artwork for a cartoon featuring a performance by Marianne Faithful, Mark Dignam and Nick Williamson in Hamlet at the Round House Theatre, which featured in Punch on March 5, 1969, is inscribed on reverse of the mount: “This picture belongs to William Hewison, it is on permanent loan to the Punch Table Room”. The drawing is estimated at £100-150

For further information, please contact Chris Ewbank, telephone 01483 223101, or [email protected]