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Robert Stewart Sherriffs (1906-1960)

Robert Stewart Sherriffs (1906-1960)

Best known as film caricaturist for
Punch, R S Sherriffs specialised in effective abstracted ink drawings of celebrity, in which the abstraction always retains a likeness.

R S Sherriffs was born in Arbroath, Scotland on 13 February 1906, one of three sons of an Arbroath flax merchant. He attended the local Arbroath High School and, encouraged by his family to develop his talents in art and music, became an Arts medallist. An accomplished musician, he even considered a career as a professional pianist, but an intense loathing of Bach and Mozart and his increasing interest in art prevented it.

Sherriffs studied art and heraldic design at Edinburgh College of Arts, and later found that the discipline of heraldic composition could be well adapted to caricature, once saying ‘I regarded caricatures as designs and the expressions on faces merely as changes in basic patterns’ (Bryant 2000, page 205). His approach to caricature was calligraphic and he preferred working in brush to pen, using Chinese inks for colour illustrations.

Leaving Edinburgh for London in 1926, Sherriffs went to live in Holland Park Road and spent his first weeks in the capital at the theatre and cinema, seeing everything he could – including
Ben Hur thirteen and a half times – until he ran out of money. He began work in advertising, drawing for commercial studios, however he found it tedious and unappealing, and started to send examples of caricatures to magazines.

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