Federation era Melbourne painter, cartoonist, illustrator, etcher and journalist. Nuttall was colour-blind, so specialised in black and white work and monochrome paintings from which his prints were often made.
painter, cartoonist, illustrator, etcher and journalist, was born in Fitzroy, Melbourne on 6 September 1872, only son of the six children of Mr & Mrs James Charles Nuttall of Harpurhey, Lancashire. He studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne (c.1895) then joined the Victorian Artists’ Society in 1896, where he was an occasional exhibitor and the designer of its 1902 and 1903 catalogue covers. There is some speculation that he was also a member of Council in 1903. (There is some speculation that Nuttall was also secretary of the Black and White Club[?] in 1900 [sic] (see: Cook) but the Black and White Artists Club was not formed until 1924). He contributed to Melbourne Punch and to the Bulletin (e.g. 1902 fat swaggie joke ill. Lindesay 1979, 129), signing his cartoons 'Nuttall’. A member of the Melbourne Savage Club in 1903-12, Nuttalll drew The Story of the Bunyip -an Aboriginal woman gesturing over a fire with three terrified piccaninies listening to her tale – as the cover for a Smoke Concert programme held 28 March 1903 (# ill. Dow, 81).
Nuttall was colour-blind, so specialised in black and white work and monochrome paintings from which prints were often made. Reproductions of his The First Test Match (1904) sold in hundreds throughout Australia, while the print from his monochrome Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (1902), which contained 400 likenesses of those present (cf Tom Roberts’ “big picture”), was also extremely popular. The original was acquired by the Trustees of Melbourne’s Exhibition Building – the scene of the event – and after disappearing for decades was again hung there in 2001, the Centenary of Federation.
Nuttall went to New York in 1905 and became a staff artist on the New York Herald for some years (Johnson, 82). He contributed to The Century , Harper’s and other magazines and continued to send work back to Australian periodicals, including New Idea . For Life he wrote and illustrated 'Day and Night on Broadway’ (15 May 1906), 'A Cluster of Types of America’s Immigrants’ (15 June 1906) and 'Glimpses of New York; An Australian New Chum in America’ (15 November 1906, pp43-?). He also drew 'comic’ images of blacks that now seem like racist propaganda, e.g. 'John Bull as the caricaturists picture him; And John Bull as he really is’ (John Bull menacing two little black boys compared with one of him giving one lad a fatherly slap on the bottom for his own good), Life 1 July 1911, 24..
In 1910 Nuttall returned to Melbourne via Britain and Europe. There he conducted art classes and continued to draw. In 1911 he published Nuttall’s Xmas Annual ('Charles Nuttall is announcing the fact that he has returned from America to Australia to stay, by the issue of the first of, we trust, a long series of Christmas annuals…’ Life remarked on 1 December 1911, 648). Bulletin cartoons include: A Shocking Home [re introduction of electricity] 1913 (ill. King II, 91) and The Coming Costume [multiple jokes re bathing suits] 1913 (ill. King II, 99). In 1916 he had drawings included in an exhibition of war cartoons in Melbourne (NLA has his pro-conscription postcard, The Women’s Big Gun ). He had a solo drawing show at Melbourne in 1916, and he showed his drawings in London in 1917 jointly with war cartoons by a fellow Melbourne Punch cartoonist, George Dancey .
Nuttall’s 'Two-up’, a wartime strip, appeared in Melbourne Punch in 1918 (ill. King II, p.108). He also continued to illustrate for Life . Lieutenant Hudson Fysh’s 'Fording it across Australia’, Life 1 January 1921, pp.37-40, has a header and two illustrations by Nuttall (as well as photographs of the trip – including Aborigines at Boorooloola – evidently by Fysh himself). Nuttall also exhibited with the VAS; a comic drawing of an old man, Peasant of Zealand , was purchased by the NGV from its 1925 exhibition. He is also said to have showed with the Painter-Etchers Society. His etching, Homestead , is in Castlemaine Art Gallery, while his portrait of the admired Victor Cobb 1910-11 is in the State Library of Victoria (SLV).
He wrote and illustrated several books and illustrated many more, including C.H. Chomley’s Tales of the Old Times (1903), a school edition of Jeannie Gunn’s The Little Black Princess (c.1912), including the cover illustration, and Melbourne editions of Hughes’ Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1913), Scott’s The Talisman (1915) and Ballantyne’s Coral Island (1930s). He contributed illustrations to Melba’s Gift Book of Australian Art and Literature (1915) and to the Adam Lindsay Gordon Memorial Volume (c.1921).
As an artist on the weekly Table Talk Nuttall contributed to the Melbourne Herald and Weekly Times 's stable-mate Pals , the first Australian boys’ weekly paper (1920-26), including illustrating a serial in the last volume, Charles Barrett’s 1915 novel 'The Isle of Palms’. He drew its crudely coloured comic strip 'Pip Squips’, begun in 1925 as a rival to Bancks’s 'Us Fellers’. His address in Fred Johns’s Who’s Who in Australia, 1927-28 was 'The Block, Collins St., Melbourne’ (p.195).
Nuttall was an especially prolific postcard artist, mainly of comic drawings – including some done for the Bulletin Publishing Company. Comic postcards by him, apparently all drawn for other publishers, are in the SLV along with other works (see SLV website). He also drew glamorous women, an 'Australian History’ series published in 1934-36 that included John Batman, and a number of Aboriginal subjects in sepia and white on black (see Cook) – though a couple of undated coloured examples (an Aboriginal man of South Australia and an Aboriginal woman from Queensland), presumably coloured by the publisher, are in the SLV’s collection of artists’ postcards. (The SLV also owns his charcoal drawing Evolution 1922 – apes climbing up steep cliffs towards an open sky – purchased by the Trustees of the NGV under the Felton Bequest from the Victorian Artists’ Society Spring exhibition 1922, cat. 243, and transferred 1948.)
Before going to the US Nuttall designed postcards for his own short-lived firm, Renwick, Pride & Nuttall, including one of two living Siamese twin children posed with their mother that Mills calls 'repulsive’ (p.22). '“Love’s Young Dream” at Manly Beach’, a postcard from the series 'Sydney by Night’, published by the Oceanic Stamp and Post Card Company (ill. Cook, p.203), shows a couple kissing in front of the moon, with baths to the right and a carrousel to the left. The identical illustration appeared in the 'Melbourne by Night’ set (1905), with only the caption changed.
When the short-lived Australian Institute of the Arts and Literature was formed in Melbourne (c.1921) with Ida Rentoul Outhwaite , Furnley Maurice, Jeannie Gunn and Nuttall among the members, Nuttall was appointed to the Sectional Committee for 'Art and Art-Crafts’. In 1924-25 he toured Europe and Asia with his wife, Leila. Later he added radio broadcasting to his repertoire. He died suddenly in 1934, survived by his wife.