David Low (cartoonist)

Sir David Alexander Cecil Low (7 April 189119 September 1963) was a New Zealand political cartoonist who lived and worked in the United Kingdom for many years. Low was a self-taught cartoonist. Born in New Zealand, he worked in his native country before migrating to Sydney, Australia in 1911, and ultimately to London (1919), where he made his career and earned fame for his Colonel Blimp depictions and his merciless satirising of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and their policies. Such stinging depictions led to his work being banned in Italy and Germany.

Low received a knighthood in 1962, and died in London in 1963. Upon his death in 1963, Low was described in the press as "the dominant cartoonist of the western world

Early life

Low was born in Dunedin, and attended primary school there. His family later moved to Christchurch, where Low attended Christchurch Boys' High School. Low's first cartoon was published in 1902, when he was 11 years old, in the Christchurch Spectator.


Low began his career as a professional cartoonist with the Canterbury Times in 1910. In 1911 he moved to Sydney, Australia to join the Bulletin. During his employment at the Bulletin, Low became famous for a 1916 cartoon of William Hughes, then the Prime Minister of Australia, entitled The Imperial Conference. A collection of Low's cartoons of Hughes entitled The Billy Book, which he published in 1918, brought Low to the notice of Henry Cadbury, part-owner of the London Star. In 1919 Cadbury offered Low a job with the Star, which Low promptly accepted.

In England, Low worked initially at the London Star (1919–27), which sympathised with his own moderately left-wing views. He then accepted an invitation from Max Aitken to join the conservative Evening Standard (1927–50) on the strict understanding that there would be no editorial interference with his output. Later he moved to the Daily Herald (1950–53), and finally the Manchester Guardian (from 1953).

World War II

In 1937, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels told British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax that British political cartoons, particularly those of Low's, were damaging Anglo-German relations. In 1937 Low had produced an occasional strip about ‘Hit and Muss’ (Hitler and Mussolini), but after Germany made official complaints he substituted a composite dictator, Muzzler. After the war, Low is said to have found his name on the Nazi death list.

A generation of New Zealand school students were, and are still being, taught the origins of the Second World War in textbooks illustrated with Low's cartoons and were told that Hitler had a personal hatred of the cartoonist. His works are also featured in many British history textbooks.

One of Low's most famous cartoons, Rendezvous, was first published in the Evening Standard on the 20th of September, 1939. It satirises the cynicism which lay at the heart of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, depicting Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin bowing politely before each other after their joint invasion of Poland, but nevertheless greeting each other as "the scum of the earth" and "the bloody assassin of the workers".


United Kingdom


  • National Library of Australia: The Collection holds 57 original drawings and 22 photo-lithographs individually catalogued with a number digitised (including drawings relating to The Billy Book); the Newspapers Collection holds many thousands of Low's cartoons, although none are digitised at present.


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