John Glashan (1927-1999) John Glashan’s fine art training is readily apparent in the distinctly painterly quality of his cartoons. Though he never found the success he desired as a landscape and portrait painter, he instead turned his skill to creating his characteristic sketchy cartoon figures, produced in front of vast baroque watercolour backdrops and architectural landscapes.
John Glashan was born John McGlashan in Glasgow on 24 December 1927, the son of Archibald McGlashan, member of the Royal Society of Arts and President of the Glasgow Arts Club. Educated at Woodside School, Kelvin Park, he was awarded the gold medal in a Glasgow Corporation schools drawing competition in 1945, before studying painting at the Glasgow School of Art. Whilst there, he provided illustrations for the Glasgow University magazine, GUM. In 1956, he moved to London to pursue a career as a portrait and landscape painter.
In 1959, he married Anna John, the granddaughter of Augustus John, and together they had two children. In an attempt to support his career as a painter, which had failed to provide an adequate income for his young family, he dropped the ‘Mc’ from his name and began to work as a freelance cartoonist. His first cartoons were published in Lilliput in 1959 and he continued to produce three pages per issue until the magazine’s closure the following year. A collection of his cartoons, titled The Eye of the Needle, was published in 1961, which was followed by regular features in Queen magazine and the newly formed Private Eye. In 1966, he became one of the founder members of the British Cartoonists’ Association. Between the 1960s and 1990s, he joked that he worked for every newspaper and magazine in the world apart from New Statesman. He also produced advertisements for companies such as ICI and Blue Nun. In 1978, he took over from Jules Feiffer on the Observer, where he produced the strip cartoon ‘Genius’. The strip, winner of the Glen Grant Strip Cartoon Award in 1981, earned a cult following over its 228 episodes until it ended in 1983. Between 1983 and 1988, he returned to landscape and portrait painting, before resuming cartoons with The Spectator, where he continued to work until 1998. Exhibitions of his work were held at the Fine Art Society in 1991 and 1994, the former to coincide with release of the book, John Glashan’s World. He died of cancer in London on 15 June 1999.