Graham Laidler, ARIBA (1908-1940), known as 'Pont' Following in the Punch tradition of George Du Maurier and Frank Reynolds, Graham ‘Pont’ Laidler excelled at satirising the British middle classes. Before his premature death at the age of just 32, Laidler had established a reputation as one of the finest cartoonists of the twentieth century with his acute observations of ‘the British Character’.
Graham Laidler was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 4 July 1908, the only son of George Laidler, proprietor of a distinguished firm of painters and decorators. He was educated at the Newcastle upon Tyne Preparatory School and later at Trinity College, Glenalmond, Perth. When Laidler was 13, the death of his father prompted the family to move south and settle in the village of Jordans, Buckinghamshire. He started drawing cartoons when still a schoolboy and was determined to earn his living in that way.
But in 1926, as a result of family pressure, he enrolled at the Architectural Association in London, later becoming an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Towards the end of his architectural studies, Laidler was diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis. After a major operation in 1932, having been advised to give up office work and spend his winters abroad, he was unable to pursue an architectural career, and instead developed his talent for cartooning. As a student in 1930, he had already begun to draw ‘The Twiff Family’, a regular strip for Women’s Pictorial, and in 1931 and 1932, he also produced illustrated Christmas catalogues for the wine merchants W Glendinning & Sons. In August 1932 he fulfilled his ambition to have a cartoon accepted by Punch.
Over the following eight years, Laidler published 450 cartoons in Punch under the pseudonym of ‘Pont’. (This derived from a family joke concerning ‘Pontifex Maximus’.) When Night & Day tried to lure him away, Punch editor E V Knox acknowledged his talent by signing him up for a unique exclusive contract, an almost unprecedented offer at the time. His most successful series, ‘The British Character’, was published in the book, The British Character Studied and Revealed (1938). Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Laidler’s observations on the national response to the phoney war and the threat of invasion were published in The British Carry On (1940). Despite his brief career, he left an important body of work which shows him to have been one of the most subtle of Punch’s wits. Pont himself insisted that ‘I have no sense of humour. I try very hard to draw people as they are.’ He died from poliomyelitis at Hillingdon County Hospital, Uxbridge on 23 November 1940.