Victoria Davidson (1915-1999) When Lilliput magazine and Picture Post began, they carried humorous drawings signed ‘Victoria’. Never actually on the staff of either magazine, Victoria Davidson freelanced her way into the role of a British institution. Her signature became widely familiar, and at one period Lilliput covers carried it for a full eighteen months. She began drawing for Picture Post in its first year, and for Lilliput from the third issue and it soon became clear that the two magazines had decided to “give her a run”. the run went on for twenty years. Victoria Davidson was born Lilli Ursula Barbara Commichau in Munich, Bavaria in 1915.
As a child, she had always loved drawing, but had an ambition to be a ballet dancer. This was ended by an accident to her spine and serious peritonitis. While convalescing, she began drawing again, and decided she wanted to go to art school. This she did in September 1929, when she went to Berlin alone, and won a scholarship to study fashion. Fashion design alternated with Life Drawing, Graphic Design and History of Costume. By the time she left, she had developed an unusual and irreverent line in the art of Humorous Costume.
Around this time, Lilli met her future husband, Eric Victor, son of a South African pioneer, educated in Germany, of a Jewish family. She changed her name to Victoria, as the couple were known as Victor and Victoria by their friends. When Victoria graduated in 1933, she took an editorial job as a layout artist the fashion magazine Beyers Mode Fuer Alle. Thanks to an art school friend circulating her portfolio, she also found freelance work and illustrating articles on the history of fashion accessories through the ages. By the time she was 20, she had a knowledge of journalism and had built herself a modest reputation for humorous freelance work.
However, things began to become difficult for Victoria and Eric as the political situation in Germany worsened. In one incident, Victoria was accosted while riding in a tram in the company of Eric and another friend reviled for 'going about in the company of Jews'. Her successful freelance work on 'Costume through the Ages' was abruptly terminated when she received a communication stating that she 'was not considered fit to contribute to the National Press'. She appealed to one uniformed official after another, but when the next person to appeal to turned out to be Goebbels himself, she lost her nerve.
In 1935, Victoria and Eric decided to leave Germany. He left for London and she followed a month of so later. They married, and she acquired British citizenship in the same year.
Victoria at last got work, having initially found it difficult to become professionally established in London but eventually began a long period of extraordinary creativity and success. In 1937, the Hungarian Stefan Lorant launched the popular monthly pocket magazine Lilliput and Victoria was asked to contribute illustrations from the 3rd edition. For the next twenty years her stylish drawings were a regular feature of covers and such articles as 'Gulliver's Diary', always signed either ‘Victoria’ or just just ‘V’. When Hulton Press, again under the auspices of Stefan Lorant, began publication of Picture Post in 1938, Victoria became a regular contributor, particularly known for her illustrations of readers' letters, which she did until the magazine ceased publication in the 1950s.
Victoria continued to work throughout the war, producing wickedly lampooning cartoons of Hitler and the other Reich leaders. She also separated from Eric during their time and met her second husband, Dr Hans Davidson. They married in 1947.
Victoria’s work appeared in Britain in the Radio Times, Tatler, the Illustrated London News, Sunday Mirror, Advertisers Weekly, and the Daily Sketch, as well as Die Neue Aslese and Suddeutsche Zeitung in Germany. She drew for a number of advertising campaigns including V P Wines, Stock Brandy, Nestle, Punch, Kellog’s, Erinmore Tobacco, Mazda Lightbulbs, Bird’s Custard, Persil and G.P.O. She also wrote and illustrated several children’s books. Her graphic skills received recognition when she was elected Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists.
In the same decade, Victoria began a new venture as an antiques dealer, opening a shop in Camden Passage, Islington. For a while, she combined the two careers, but gradually the shop took over from her drawing. When her husband died of cancer in 1980, Victoria left London for good and moved to Boxford in Suffolk, where she opened an antiques showroom. In this last phase of her life, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and later developed Parkinson’s Disease. Yet, in spite of this, she remained creative to the end; in her last years writing and illustrating a book of poems about cats and humorous books about (and for) her friends and relations. She died in Boxford on 23rd November 1999.