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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

John McNamara

A self-portrait of the artist, lighting a pipe, a globe showing travel between Woking (England) and Wellington (New Zealand) to one side
John Joseph McNamara, born 20 April 1918, began his artistic career as a teenager around 1934, drawing caricatures of film, sporting and local personalities for numerous New Zealand publications, including Paramount Theatre of Stars (1935), Standard (1936), Radio Record, New Zealand Sporting Life and Referee, Junior for NZ, Boys and Girls (1937-38), Clarion (1938), Cappicade (1937-39) and Katipo (1940). By the late 1930s he was also a political cartoonist working regularly for the Southern Cross where his work continued to appear until at least 1951.

He drew hundreds of caricatures and illustrations of famous sporting figures of the era including footballers Jim Taylor, Jack Lee, Neil Franklin and Dennis Compton, rugby players Morrie Doyle, Billy Wallace, Stan Dean, Ken Jones, boxers Cyril Hurne, Time Tracy, Eddie Thomas and Don Cockell, golfer Zoe Hudson, snooker world champion Joe Davis, cricketers Freddie Brown and Len Hutton, jockeys Lester Piggott and Gordon Richards and others, including illustrations of the 1948 Olympic team and a series of portraits of rugby players involved in New Zealand's 1949 tour of South Africa.

At the same time he continued to draw political cartoons for Southern Cross and New Zealand Listener, including aspects of the 1949 election in which Peter Fraser was defeated by Sidney Holland. McNamara was critical of the latter's links with the British Conservatives.

McNamara travelled to the UK in March 1950 at the age of 31 and found work on British newspapers. Although the full extent of his work over here is unknown, he appears to have found work fairly quickly. Two early strips -- possibly both published in the Daily Herald -- featured "Bats" Belfry, which had a horse racing background and involved bet setting and detective work, and an adaptaion of C. S. Forester's character Horatio Hornblower. McNamara also found work with Amalgamated Press drawing issues of Thriller Comics, ranging from adaptations of Westward Ho!, The Red Badge of Courage and Hopalong Cassidy to the adventures of Dick Turpin and Robin Hood.

In 1958, McNamara took over the artwork for Francis Durbridge's "Paul Temple" comic strip, which had been appearing regularly in the London Evening News since 1950, originally drawn by Alfred Sindall and subsequently by others.

McNamara drew the popular strip until it came to an end on 1 May 1971, during which time Paul Temple underwent a change in appearance so that the character in the newspaper resembled Francis Matthews, who played Temple in the BBC TV series (1969-71). The strip came to an end shortly after the TV show's third season finished.

McNamara died in Surrey in February 2001, aged 82.

Artwork for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery by John McNamara can be found here.

(* The portrait of McNamara is from the archive of the National Library of New Zealand.)

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