Mel Calman

Mel Calman

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Melville Calman (19 May 1931, Stamford Hill
Stamford Hill
Stamford Hill is a place in the north of the London Borough of Hackney, England, near the border with Haringey. It is home to Europe's largest Hasidic Jewish and Adeni Jewish community.Stamford Hill is NNE of Charing Cross.-History:...

 – 10 February 1994, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

) was a British cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 best known for his "little man" cartoons published in British newspapers including the Daily Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

(1957–63), The Sunday Telegraph (1964–65), The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

(1965-6), The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

(1969–84) and The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

(1979–94).

Biography


Calman was the youngest of the three children of Clement Calman, a timber merchant, and his wife Anna (both Russian-Jewish
History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
The vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest populations of Jews in the diaspora. Within these territories the Jewish community flourished and developed many of modern Judaism's most distinctive theological and cultural traditions, while also facing periods of...

 immigrants who came to England about 1912).

Sent to Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 to avoid The Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he was educated at the Perse School. Failing to gain entrance to Cambridge University, he returned to London where he enrolled at the Borough Polytechnic
London South Bank University
London South Bank University is a university in south London. With over 25,000 students and 1,700 staff, it is based in the London Borough of Southwark, near the South Bank of the River Thames, from which it takes its name...

 Art School, later studying illustration at St Martin's School of Art and Goldsmith College.

After two years of National Service
National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes . The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes...

, in 1956 he attempted to find work as a freelance cartoonist. Punch
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...

was discouraging about his work, but in 1958 he succeeded in placing work with the "William Hickey" column in the Daily Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

. Although in regular work, he left the Express after five years, seeing no prospects being in competition with Osbert Lancaster
Osbert Lancaster
Sir Osbert Lancaster, CBE was an English cartoonist, author, art critic and stage designer, best known to the public at large for his cartoons published in the Daily Express.-Biography:Lancaster was born in London, England...

 and Giles
Carl Giles
Ronald "Carl" Giles , often referred to simply as Giles, was a cartoonist most famous for his work for the British newspaper the Daily Express....

.

In 1962 he began producing his trademark "little man" character for the Sunday Telegraph
Sunday Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph is a British broadsheet newspaper, founded in February 1961. It is the sister paper of The Daily Telegraph, but is run separately with a different editorial staff, although there is some cross-usage of stories...

, and in 1979 he brought this as a regular and long-running contribution to The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

. Additionally, he made contributions to Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan (magazine)
Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s...

and House & Garden
House & Garden (magazine)
House & Garden was an American shelter magazine published by Condé Nast Publications that focused on interior design, entertaining, and gardening....

, as well as publishing some 20 books of his cartoons.

In later life he became an art dealer and collector, in 1989 co-founding the Cartoon Art Trust. In 1994, he died of a coronary thrombosis
Thrombosis
Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When a blood vessel is injured, the body uses platelets and fibrin to form a blood clot to prevent blood loss...

 at the Empire cinema, Leicester Square
Leicester Square
Leicester Square is a pedestrianised square in the West End of London, England. The Square lies within an area bound by Lisle Street, to the north; Charing Cross Road, to the east; Orange Street, to the south; and Whitcomb Street, to the west...

.

He was married twice: to the magazine designer Pat McNeill, and to the artist Karen Elizabeth Usborne. Deborah Moggach
Deborah Moggach
Deborah Moggach is an English writer. She has written sixteen novels to date, including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, and, most recently, These Foolish Things. She has adapted many of her novels as TV dramas and has also written several film scripts, including the BAFTA-nominated screenplay for Pride...

 was his partner for the last ten years of his life.

He is buried alongside his mother and sister at the Jewish cemetery, Waltham Abbey
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey is a market town of about 20,400 people in the south west of the county of Essex, in the East of England region. It is about 24 km north of London on the Greenwich Meridian and lies between the River Lea in the west and Epping Forest in the east. It takes its name from The Abbey...

, Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

.

Works


Calman's trademark character was the angst-ridden "little man", who strongly reflected Calman's own lifelong depressions (in Who's Who
Who's Who (UK)
Who's Who is an annual British publication of biographies which vary in length of about 30,000 living notable Britons.-History:...

he listed his recreations as "brooding and worrying"). Topics focused on the little man's anxieties about health, death, God, achievement, morality and women, a style of humour that his Times obituary described as "of the black, self-deprecating Jewish variety, in the style of his New York heroes, James Thurber
James Thurber
James Grover Thurber was an American author, cartoonist and celebrated wit. Thurber was best known for his cartoons and short stories published in The New Yorker magazine.-Life:...

, S. J. Perelman
S. J. Perelman
Sidney Joseph Perelman, almost always known as S. J. Perelman , was an American humorist, author, and screenwriter. He is best known for his humorous short pieces written over many years for The New Yorker...

 and Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

".

A small-format single-frame "pocket cartoon", the little man series used hand-lettered text in soft pencil and minimalist detail, a technique he had evolved due to early weaknesses in draughtsmanship.

Calman is commemorated by a Hackney historic plaque on his former residence at 64 Linthorpe Road; where he lived from 1931 until 1957.

External links

  • Mel Calman, British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent