Cartoonist, writer-playwright, illustrator
Australian cartoonist born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1862.
In the Bulletin newspaper’s early development, artist contributors were slow in coming, but gradually in the 1890s a renowned band of artists was attracted to its pages. In one decade artists such as D.H. Souter, Frank Mahony, George Lambert, Percy Spence, A.H. Fullwood, Fred Leist, B.E. Minns, Alfred J. Fischer, Alf Vincent and Ambrose Dyson (the older brother of Will Dyson) established the Australian black-and-white tradition of hard-hitting humor which made Australia, in the second half of the 19th century, one of the most important centers of black-and-white art in the world.
Of these artists the best remembered today is D.H. Souter. who for over forty years had at least one drawing in every edition of the Bulletin and who put his own price on his drawings from the time he started contributing his work in 1892. At the age of 18, he joined the staff of the Bon Accord in his birthplace, Aberdeen, Scotland; then, after working in Natal, South Africa, for five years, he went to Australia in 1886. His beautiful, decorative pen work, drawn with exceptional grace of line, showed the early influence of art nouveau, a sinuous and flowing style that originated in Belgium and England and was designed to break with previous decorative tradition.
Within a few weeks of the outbreak of World War I Souter was drawing his large, full-page war cartoons for the Stock Journal. These cartoons displayed outstanding passages of drawing and pen work; avoiding any black masses and aids like mechanical tints. Souter preferred built-up tones and textures, sometimes being almost machinelikc in the weight and spacing of his pen lines.
Souter’s humorous themes in the Bulletin were never other than domestic in character: usually dashing women scoring a point or two off the male, her boyfriend or husband. Despite their grace of line, his drawings were strong on the printed page—large black solids complementing fine, firm pen lines. Souter’s superb compositions and groupings were helped by the inclusion in every cartoon of the well-known Souter cat, which, it is said, originated as the result of his furbishing an accidental inkblot on one of his drawings. Some of these wonderful cat studies are pictured in his Bush Bubs, a collection of nonsense rhymes and jingles written for his young children, then illustrated for publication as a hook in 1933.
There was a mind behind Souter’s work. His humor was sophisticated, knowing, often wise but never harshly cynical. David Souter was also a reflective writer of verso, stories, plays, an operetta called The Grey Kimono and art criticism for the Bulletin, its sister publication the Lone Hand magazine. Art in Austrolin and other publications.
The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, 1981