Kempsey Library to display work of acclaimed WWI cartoonist

Community life - 23 January 2018

It’s hard to imagine finding the amusing side of war, however, acclaimed World War One cartoonist Hal Eyre did just that with his highly regarded satirical cartoons.

This rarely seen view of the War is now on public display at Kempsey Shire Library through to 1 February as part of a travelling exhibition drawn from the State Library of NSW collection of 357 original drawings purchased in 1920.

The display features reproductions of 20 of his most comical cartoons which are beautiful and enlightening illustrations of the debates and controversies of the time.

Highlights include depictions of soldiers at Gallipoli, patriotic depictions of the recruitment marches through country NSW and heroic Australian diggers triumphing over their enemies.

State Library of NSW curator, Elise Edmonds, said Eyre’s work provided a valuable insight into Australia’s thinking during WW1.

“Cartoons provide valuable social commentary on key historical events and Hal Eyre was one of the most important social commentators on the war,” Ms Edmonds said.

Hal Eyre (1875-1946) was born at Sofala, NSW and attended school in Forbes and later Bathurst, where he began his artistic career by caricaturing his school teacher.

Eyre’s cartoons were in great demand during the war and in 1908 he was employed as a regular political cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph.

According to Ms Edmonds, many of the Hal Eyre sketches hold hidden messages and were products of their time.

“He used animals as metaphors for nation states and drew fascinating caricatures of well-known European and Australian leaders,” she said.

For more information about the display contact Kempsey Library on 6566 3210. To find out about upcoming events go to either the library’s Facebook page or visit the website www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au/library

Cartoon by World War One cartoonist Hal EyreAn iconic image from the Hal Eyre exhibition, a Boxing Kangaroo 1917