Percy Leason (23 February 1889 – 11 September 1959 was a cartoonist an painter who rose to prominence in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was most widely known for cartoons and illustrations that appeared in many magazines including Punch and later Table Talk.
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A Brief BiographyLeason grew up around the town of Kaniva, on what is now the Western Highway between Melbourne and Adelaide, Kaniva is just inside the Victorian Border. Though he moved to the big cities, his most famous illustrations centred on the mythical small country town of Wiregrass, probably based on his early experiences.
In 1906, Age 17, he was apprenticed as a lithographer at Sands and McDougall, in Melbourne, makers of the popular street maps. During this time his also studied art at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School.
He collaborated with fellow apprentice Dick McCann on a number of posters ('I allus has one at eleven', commissioned by the Carlton Brewery, became famous)
He set up an art studio in 1911and he became part of the Australian art scene, including paintings for the Australian War Memorial and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He moved to Sydney in 1917 (In his late 20’s) and In the early 1920’s he worked as a political cartoonist for the Bulletin Magazine in Sydney.
In 1824 he visited Melbourne where he met Max Meldrum, another painter who had a major influence on his art. Both Max and Percy were part of a tonal art movement. Soon after his visit to Melbourne he moved permenantly to Melbourne , working as a cartoonist for Keith Murdoch’s Punch magazine. At the time he was Australia’s highest paid cartoonist.
Punch was absorbed into Table Talk magazine in 1925 and Leason continued to provide cartons until 1937.
He continued to Paid while working as a cartoonist and his portraits of Australian Aborigines are part of the Collection of the State Library of Victoria.
In 1938 Leason and his family moved to the USA where he conducted art classes until the mid 1950’s. Late in his life he gained an interest in early European cave paintings and he did age 70 in 1959.
Percy Leason is listed in the Australian Dictionary of Biography
The World of Percy Leason's IllustrationsLeason's works were usually light-hearted looks at the modern world. In the 1920's and 1930's this modern world included motor cars, aeroplanes, Radio, high rise buildings as well as changing attitudes to holidays, acceptable clothing or road rules. Sport was just another avenue to find humour. During his Table Talk years, Leason's humor was rarely political.
Leason’s cartoons were given a full page spread in Table Talk and Leason made great use of the space and in many cases you need time to study the illustration to enjoy it in full.
Unlike other cartoonists, Leason did not created a signature character such as Ginger Meggs, Bluey and Curley or Mr Melbourne, rather each illustration stood alone.
A Selection of ImagesBelow is a selection of Leason's works. I have categorized the images into groups to show some of the themes from his work. Many of the themes such as violence in sport and how money affected the game were common themes in cartoons at the time.
Many more images can be found via the National Library of Australia's Trove. Many if Leason's illustrations in 'Table Talk' have multiple panels within the page. These multi-panel illustrations are difficult to read without the aid of Trove.
Note - The following illustrations mainly appeared in 'Table Talk' Magazine, and were originally large poster size images. It is difficult to appreciate the images by looking at the small thumbnails on this page. Please click on the images to see the larger versions.
Changing of the Seasons
Bradman and Bodyline
Stealing is a Crime
Watching the Game
Wireless and Electricity
Copyright NotesAll cartoons by Percy Leason are in copyright until 2045. At the time of Leason’s death in 1959 copyright existed for the life of the artist plus 50 years. Leason’s work would therefore have expired in 2009. Australian copyright law was amended in 2005 and copyright was extended to life of the artist plus 75 years.
It is difficult to determine the current copyright holder of these images. I have limited the images here to those already available online through Trove.