William Hewison (1925-2002) A prominent contributor to Punch Magazine as well as its Art Editor for 24 years, William Hewison made a substantial mark on the world of British cartoons and caricatures from the 1950s until the turn of the millennium. Hewison was born in South Shields, County Durham, on 15 May 1925, the youngest son in a family of greengrocers. His father was a sign maker and decorator, and Hewison began to paint and draw from an early age, partially under his father’s tutelage. On leaving school, he attended South Shields Art School (1941-43), before leaving for military service. He served as a gunner and wireless operator in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment in France during the war, before finishing his service at GHQ Cairo. After being de-commissioned, he moved to London to study at the Regent Street Polytechnic from 1947 to 1949, where he met his wife.
Instead of commercial art and illustration, the more typical area of study for cartoonists, he studied painting, ultimately winning a bronze medal for life drawing. He then spent a year at the University of London in order to gain an Art Teacher’s Diploma, which he put to use as the Assistant Art Master at The Latymer School in Hammersmith from 1950 to 1956. This part-time job allowed him to develop cartoons, and to continue to work freelance for various publications. His first cartoon was published in 1949 in Lilliput, with others in Punch from 1950.
In 1956, Hewison was invited to join the Punch Editorial Board as Deputy Art Editor. According to Hewison, he won the position over Quentin Blake due to his being Blake’s senior. He held this position underRussell Brockbank from 1956 to 1960, working part-time for the magazine as well as helping with layout and selecting each week’s cartoons and caricatures. When Brockbank left Punch in 1960, Hewison replaced him as Art Editor. Hewison’s job was equally balanced between managerial and artistic duties: he selected all of the cartoons that would appear in the magazine with the various Punch Editors-in-Chief and, with the help of his Deputy Art Editor, created the layout and order of all the art pieces for each issue. He also contributed to Punch as an illustrator, cartoonist, cover artist and, from 1961, as the theatre caricaturist, a job that he inherited from Ronald Searle. After retiring from Punch in 1984, Hewison worked for various other publications, and when Punch was shut down in 1992, he began to work for The Times as their theatre caricaturist. He exhibited his cartoons at the National Theatre every five years beginning in 1980, and his drawings of various actors are now in countless private collections. He continued to be a presence at the Punch Table and one of the key go-betweens the artists and editors of the magazine until it closed its doors.
Stylistically, his work extends from pen and ink to bodycolour. Many of the covers that he produced for Punch comprise a mixture of media, brightly coloured with appliqué pieces, but Hewison tried to emulate the cartoonists and caricaturists of the generation before him, who were masters of line. He often wrote about the difficulty of drawing in the dark for his theatre caricatures, but he also wrote about his struggles to be both editor (and therefore critic) of cartoons and caricatures and to produce them himself.
Hewison dominated the aesthetic of Punch during his tenure. Punch’s fast decline after his departure speaks volumes about the importance of his presence and talent during the final triumphant years of the magazine. He died on 7 April 2002, having outlived most of the illustrators with whom he worked.