Bradshaw Percival Vanner

London, United Kingdom

1878-1965

Cartoonist, comic artist

Born in Hackney, London, England, in 1878. Percy V. Bradshaw, who signed his cartoons and strips “P.V.B.,” was educated at Aske’s School at Hatcham. At the age of 14 he became a clerk in an advertising agency and sold his first cartoon to the Boy’s Own Paper, his favorite childhood reading, receiving half a guinea from the editor, G.A. Hutchinson. This success prompted his transfer to the agency art department, and with evening art study at Goldsmith’s and Birkbeck he was able to freelance at the age of 18. One of the Alfred Harmsworth comic publications sponsored a competition through the Artist magazine to find new strip cartooning talent. The first prize of five pounds for a sketch of a jester’s head was won anonymously by Percy Bradshaw. Cartoon contributions for the Harmsworth periodicals began to flow; Home Chat and the Sunday Companion published Bradshaw’s work, and finally he won a post on the art staff of the Daily Mail.
Bradshaw began writing to back up his drawing, and his first contribution in this field, 20 lines for the Daily Graphic, brought him a chock for one shilling and eight pence—which he never cashed! Then came a series of articles about cartooning, “Black and White Drawing as a Profession,” which ran in the Boy’s Own Paper. So much correspondence came in to him—questions, sample drawings, requests for advice and criticism—that Bradshaw was inspired to create The Press Art School (1905). Organizing this pioneering correspondence course in cartooning from his home in London, Bradshaw soon had a success on his hands. His first pupil was Leo Cheyney, who capped a considerable career as a cartoonist by creating the familiar trademark figure Johnnie Walker for the whiskey of that name. The cartoonists who sprang from Percy V. Bradshaw’s course were legion: Ern Shaw, Peter Fraser, W.L. Ridgewell, Alan D’Egville, Bertram Prance, “Fougasse” (Cyril Bird) and many more.
Other important Bradshaw contributions include the foundation of the London Sketch Club on April l, 1898, with Phil May, Tom Browne, John Hassall and Dudley
Hardy; the publication of 20 portfolios under the blanket title The Art of the Illustrator in 1918 (Frank Reynolds, Harry Rountree, Warwick Reynolds, Lawson Wood, Heath Robinson, Dudley Hardy, H.M.Bateman, Bert Thomas, etc.); and the major monthly series They Make Us Smile, which ran in London Opinion through the 1940s. In 1936 he published a special six-lesson supplement to his course, Caricature and Humorous Drawing, written by the contemporary stalwarts of the art, Tom Webster, H.M. Bateman, Bert Thomas, J.A. Shepherd, Alfred Leete and “Poy” (Percy Fearon).
Bradshaw’s own artwork grew less frequent over the years; in 1930 he was working part time with Royds’ Advertising Agency, and in 1933 as the London sales organizer to Sun Engravings, a printer in Watford. He died on October 13, 1965, at age of 87, leaving a small fortune of £25,000 and an enormous legacy as a cartoonist. He probably did more for the furtherance of the art than any other English cartoonist.
Books: Art of the Illustrator (1918); Art in Advertising (1925); Fashion Drawing and Designing (1936); I Wish I Could Draw (1941); They Make Us Smile (1942); Marching On (1943); Draw for Money (1943); Nice People to Know (1944); I Wish I Could Paint (1945); Lines of Laughter (1946); Seen in Perspective (1947); Come Sketching (1949); The Magic of Line (1949); Water Colour Painting (1949); Water Colour (1952); Sketching and Painting Indians (1956); and Brother Savages and Guests (1956).

The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, 1981


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