Thursday 8th March 2018
Speaker: Barry Venning
The cartoonist, Carl Giles, once said that he loved his creation, Grandma Giles – that fearsome, black–clad, gambling, drinking battleaxe – because she allowed him to say things through his cartoons that he was too polite to say in person. She helped him poke fun at authority in all its form, from Hitler to traffic wardens and even his employers at the Daily Express, who didn’t trust him and had sub–editors scouring his cartoons for subversive background details. His admirers included Prince Charles, Sir Malcom Sargent and Tommy Cooper, and it was no surprise when he was voted Britain’s best-loved cartoonist in 2000. Few people realise, however that this likeable and humane satirist was also a war correspondent who witnessed the horrors of Belsen, where he found that the camp commandant, Josef Kramer, was also a great fan of his work. Giles gave us a remarkable picture of a half century of British life. He was also, as his editor John Gordon put it, ‘a spreader of happiness’ and a ‘genius….. with the common touch’.
An historian of British art with a particular interest in the work of JMW Turner, on whom he has published widely, including the volume on Turner in Phaidon’s Art & Ideas series, and several catalogue essays for exhibitions in the UK, Germany, Italy and Poland. He was the BBC’s script consultant on Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and has recently taken part (2013) in a BBC documentary called ‘The Genius of Turner: Painting the Industrial Revolution’. He has also published a study of John Constable’s paintings. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art. He is currently Associate Lecturer with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for NADFAS, Christie’s Education and other organisations.