Celebrating Centennials: 100 Years of Art & Design
On the heels of the Jack Kirby Centennial (and fellow comics creator Will Eisner‘s, covered earlier this year by Michael Dooley) I decided to explore who else in our field shared this milestone in 2017. The results are interesting to say the least. Here’s who and what I found—from signage designer Jock Kinneir to Felix the Cat.
Designer Jock Kinneir (born February 1917) along with Margaret Calvert designed Britain’s road and motorway signage system. It became a role model for modern road signage all over the world. They were hired by the government in the late 1950s to devise a cohesive system of typography, color, shape and symbols. Kinneir was already looked upon as one of Britain’s top graphic designers. He studied engraving at Chelsea School of Art and went on to work as an exhibition designer for the government’s Central Office of Information following WWII. He then worked for the Design Research Unit and taught at Chelsea and the Royal College of Art. The team also created signage for the British rail system, and Gatwick Airport. He died in 1994.
Artist James Bostock (born June 1917) was an English painter and printmaker. He studied at the Royal College of Art in the 1930s, where he first became attracted to wood engraving. He also was a professor of art and administrator at the Royal College and exhibited at the at the Bankside Gallery, London and the Exeter Museum. He died in 2006.
Cartoonist Reginald Smyth (born July 1917) created the popular, long-running Andy Capp comic strip. Smyth was self-taught and began selling cartoons to Cairo based magazines during WW II while stationed in North Africa. Following the war he designed theatrical posters, and sent cartoons to an agent, who sold them to Everybody’s magazine. Soon he was drawing sixty cartoons a week, for publications that included Fishtrader’s Gazette, Draper’s Record, Speedway World, London Evening Standard, Reveille, Punch, and the Daily Mirror, using “Reg Smythe” as his professional name. In 1957 he was asked by the Mirror to create a cartoon character and he came up with up Andy Capp, a lazy, working-class northerner in a flat cap, and his long-suffering wife Flo. The strip was an international hit, appearing in at least 700 newspapers. Smyth died in 1998.
Felix the Cat!
Hard to believe the Felix could possibly be 100 years old (he doesn’t look a day over 90), but reportedly Felix came into being on October 26, 1917. There is a dispute regarding who created Felix between Australian cartoonist/film entrepreneur Pat Sullivan, and American animator Otto Messmer, Sullivan’s lead animator. In addition to the myriad animation shorts that first appeared in 1919, beginning in 1923 the two worked on a syndicated comic strip and Felix’s image appeared merchandise such as stuffed toys, ceramics and postcards. The animated cartoons are credited with the introduction of the light bulb representing an idea, which would flash above Felix’s head.