painter, cartoonist, poet and journalist, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on 30 March 1862, son of David Henry Souter, engineer, and his wife Ann Smith, née Grant. After studying at the South Kensington Art School, London (c.1880), he joined the staff of the Aberdeen Bon Accord (Aberdeen). He spent five years working as an illustrator and journalist in Natal, South Africa (1881-85), started a paper that failed and was a colour sergeant in the Prince Alfred Guards. On 17 February 1886 at Port Elizabeth he married Jessie (Janet) Swanson (d.1931). They came to Melbourne [apparently in 1886] but had settled in Sydney in 1887 (Mills says arr. Melbourne in 1886 but had moved to Sydney by 1887). At Sydney he worked as an editor for John Sands, later for William Brooks. From 1 July 1887 (p.7), he regularly contributed cartoons to the Tribune , along with Alfred Clint (and another contributor signing “Whitstocke” in 1886, who is very similar in style to Souter & there is some speculation it could be a pseudonym). Later he was famous for his drawings of cats and for his stylish society cartoons, although this short, stocky, hard-headed Scot was said to have had few social graces himself.
Souter began contributing to the Bulletin in 1892. He had had at least one cartoon a week in it for more than 40 years, ranging from art nouveau ones influenced by Beardsley and The Yellow Book to art deco and flapper age social commentary in the 1920s-30s. Included in c.1930s list of Bulletin Artists (ML Px*D557 pt 5, ’23 & 24’). His Bulletin cartoon, 'At the N.S.W. Society of Artists’ Show’, published 12 September 1896, 10, includes parodies of eight works in the exhibition by Streeton , Roberts , Fullwood , Ashton (and others unnamed or illegible in the sighted example). A member of the Art Society of NSW (later RAS) from 1889, he exhibited black and white drawings, watercolours and, later, oil paintings with it until 1904 and helped found its Brush Club in 1888. He also helped found the Society of Artists in 1895, was president in 1901-02 and remained a member until at least 1918. His oil paintings were often as fin de siecle in style and subject as his cartoons.
The 1898 Grafton Gallery 'Exhibition of Australian Art in London’, held from 2 April to 7 May 1898, included his (cat 264) 'The Kitchen Lancers’ 1897, a lively and stylish ink cartoon of a dance in the servants’ hall. It is now in the Art Gallery of NSW, purchased from the Bulletin in 1968, when ACP owned the company. The 1906 Society of Artists catalogue lists six watercolours by Souter, all landscapes according to Mills (who quotes his comic biography with 'sic’ after 'arrived 1885’). Souter’s advertisement for La Boheme nightclub/ restaurant was also featured in the Society of Artists’ 1907 catalogue, along with his Royal Doulton-ware cats in a Farmer’s ad. The cat was also reproduced on Art Nouveau vases and dinner services for the Civil Service Stores in Sydney. Seven lots of cartoons and drawings were lent to the 1918 AGNSW loan exhibition, including cat.563, “drawings” lent by the Bulletin newspaper company.
Souter illustrated articles in the Town and Country Journal , e.g. for the serial The Raft in the Bush that began 19 April 1902, 40, as well as stories and verse in Lone Hand . He also wrote articles for Lone Hand : 'Australian drama’ 4 (Feb. 1909), 447-449, 'Commercial art: money making avenues open to the art student’ 9 (Sept 1911), 428-433, 'Dancing Girl’ 11 (Sept 1912), 399-405, 'Australian Girl’ 10 (February 1912), 399-405, the one-act play 'In the Park’ 12 (April 1913), 458-466, and a story, 'Blue Mountain Blue’, published in vol.13 (June 1913), 91-95. Examples of his Lone Hand drawings include a couple in the surf together, published 1 December 1910, 103; an unsigned advertisement for La Boheme 2 December 1907, xi; theatre pictures, e.g. The Skirt dancer’s Hand June 1907, 218, Contralto dramatique 1 July 1907, 257 and Prima Donna assoluta 1 August 1907, 412; and a pen-and-ink Hockey Girl 7 (May 1910), 50.
In 1904-11 Souter edited Art and Architecture . An original 1919 pen and ink cartoon of a beach belle with parasol talking to a male admirer (for an unidentified publication, possibly Lone Hand ), 'Oh no! I’ve never come down here without a covering of some sort’, was offered for sale in Josef Lebovic’s collectors’ list 58 (1996), cat.14 (ill.). The eight cartoons Rolfe chose to illustrate Souter’s Bulletin work of 1895-1901 (pp.130-31) include: Ne Plus Ultra 17 March 1900: “Oh, nothing Australian is good enough for her! Her husband came from America!! She gets all her dresses in Paris!!! And now I hear she is going to England for her health!!!!”, and Between Poses 1898 (male artist to female model): '“Are you making a fortune at the 'Altogether’?”/ “Oh, no, only a bare living!”’ Other Bulletin cartoons include Q.E.D. n.d.: '“How is it that so many worn-out old johnnies have such up-to-date wives?”/ “Oh, that’s easy. A fellow has got to slave himself to death before he can afford them”’ (ill. Rolfe, 212); '“Terrible war—isn’t it?”/ “Frightful—why this is the seventh Red Cross Dance I’ve been to this week!”’ 1915 (ill. Lindesay 1979, 154); 'Birds of a Feather’ 1923: '“Oh, I say, are you married?”/ “Would it make any difference?”/ “Not a bit—so am I!”’(ill. Rolfe, 182); 'The Body Was Identified’ 1926 [stylish smoking man and woman in evening dress, with cat], '“How did dad know we borrowed his car last night?”/ “So unfortunate! He was the old pot we pushed over at the tram terminus” (ill. Rolfe, 284); 'Snapped’ 1929 (two stylish women on beach, one with cat on bathing costume): '“This beach always makes me sad. I lost my best boy here two seasons ago.”/ “What! Shark?”/ “No—Sheila” (ill. Rolfe, 297); '“Do you approve of clubs for women, uncle?”/ “Ye-e-es—but only after every other way of quietening them has failed!”’ n.d. (ill. Lindesay 1979, 193).
Souter was founding art editor of Art and Architecture (later Architecture , then Salon ), published 1904-11, Australia’s first art journal (acc. Mills). Of his own painting, often fin de siecle in style and subject, he wrote in Art and Architecture in 1909:
“most of my own art, I am told, is only suited for private bars, and wall decorations for those popular places of resort are more cheaply … obtained for [from?] the continents of Europe and America.” (there is speculation that the quote also appears in Mills.)
Souter’s employers, the printers and publishers William Brooks & Co., published many of the books he illustrated, e.g. Ethel Turner’s Gum Leaves (1900), a book of his own verse and four later novels. His only known lithographed poster is an undated WWI colour lithograph published by William Brooks for the 'Win the War League’: 'It is nice in the surf but What About the men in the trenches. Go and help’, ill. Josef Lebovic collectors’ list 1996 no.58, cat.17, and in NLA Recruiting exhibition 1996-97. As well as writing and illustrating books for children, he illustrated children’s books by other authors. He initiated and drew ' Weary Willie and the Count de Main for Australia’s first comic strip supplement, four pages in the Sydney ( Sunday ) Sun , which commenced in November 1921. His early strips of Sharkbait Sam were done for the same paper. He illustrated Ethel Turner’s books for children – Gum Leaves , The Raft in the Bush – and for several years from 1899 edited William Brooks’s monthly Children’s Newspaper .
Souter also wrote verse, stories, plays and art criticism for the Bulletin , Art in Australia and Lone Hand and judged some literary contests held by the last. His operetta The Grey Kimona was produced at Adelaide in 1909; he illustrated two books for the NSW Bookstall Company in 1911. The first Artists’ Ball at Sydney Town Hall (21 August 1922) had decorations supervised by Souter; Cec Hartt went as his own Smith’s Weekly joke block character, The Dummy; Stan Cross was a toreador, George Finey a convict (Peter Kirkpatrick, p.272). Everyone wore masks but removed them at midnight. Two artists’ balls were held in 1923, both at the Town Hall. The first, on 25 July by the Society of Artists to raise money for the London exhibition of Australian art, was more exclusive and dull (several people dressed as famous paintings; others included George Lambert as a Persian prince and Leon Gellert as a Lambert self-portrait; Millie Sheldon as Gainsborough’s Mrs Siddons won the prize). The second, on 27 September, also had decorations supervised by D.H. Souter ('a jazz phantasy’ – including Cubist decorations). Souter himself was 'King of the Cannibal Isles’ with attendant savages, and it was here that Dulcie Deamer came dressed as a cavewoman; Percy Benison was 'Miss 1923’ with a head-dress of chickens. The Artists’ Ball of 29 August 1924 had theme of childhood, with decorations again by Souter, including an enormous toy Noah’s Ark on stage containing the band; Deamer’s verses gained her free admission and were illustrated by Souter for the Ball Souvenir (ML, and see Kirkpatrick, p.178); Finey wore a nappy secured with safety pins hiding bottle of rum and Benison went as Widow Twanki (Kirkpatrick, p.274). Souter’s full page cartoon, 'Artists’ Ball’ includes J.D. Moore as a 'Figien’, Miss Pye as 1830, Abbott Studios male and female soldiers, Miss Australia does the Charlston (woman blacked up in grass skirt with boomerang, almost certainly Dulcie Deamer as Aboriginal girl, a part she acted in a play she wrote), Miss Erna Livinge and Albert (Joe) Collins as cockneys, Franck Angel (as angel in top hat) and Syd Ure Smith as a (fat) sheik. The large original of his Artists’ Ball fantasy of 1927 is in the Norman Lindsay Gallery, National Trust (NSW).
1930s Souter cartoons published in Smith’s Weekly include 'Mother: “Heavens, George! The child’s swallowed the matches”./ Father: “Never mind, dear, use my cigarette-lighter” 8 February 1930. His novel, The Ticket in Tatts , was finally published in 1988. Fifty years claims he was a 'portrayer of lissom women, sardonic men and langorous cats, drawn with extreme grace of line’; Taylor (39) states that his drawings were 'reproduced in numberless American and English journals’.
The SLNSW has a large collection of uncatalogued originals (cartoons, illustrations and paintings, presumably from Souter’s estate). 1999 SLNSW B/W exhibition included a girl on a 'champion’ merino holding a shield in the shape of Australia inscribed with a sheep and carrying a sword-waratah with a wattle wreath on her head (drawn for the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1932, acc. Jo Holder 2000). Also a man with sheep and a stockwhip in the city (used for 'Town and Country’) and an untitled bacchanalian scene. The last (used by SLNSW for its 1998 Christmas card) was intended as the endpaper in a book planned with Frank Morton in 1923 but abandoned on Souter’s death [sic – in 1935!].
Souter lived at Waverley, later Bondi, with his Scottish-born wife, Janet, their three daughters and two sons, David and Alexis (Lex). He composed verses for his children, which he later illustrated and published as Bush Babs (1933).
There is some speculation that Souter may have been related to Charles Henry Souter (born Aberdeen, 1864), a writer who began to contribute to the Bulletin in 1908. C.H. Souter, a country doctor who had been to China as a ship’s surgeon, wrote bush and sea ballads (Rolfe, 105-6, quotes bush ballad in 1929 Xmas issue). His last book, The Lonely Rose , was published in 1935.
Mitchell Library originals include: “Why Not?” (original Px*D526-1/ 136), a man camping it up in a low-cut evening suit with short trousers parodying his wife’s outfit (she is reeling back in shock), n.d. but early-ish (1920s? used in 1999 SLNSW b/w exhibition); “Now to me speak some of your language Australian.”/ “Righto; Coogee, Bondi, Callan Park.”/ “Ah, the Callan – what does it mean?”/ “Oh, just, there’s no place like home” (wartime drawing of female on soldier’s lap with sign 'English spoke here’ behind, PxD 526-1/5) published 11 July 1918; flapper and man on violently patterned couch (PxD 526/38) published 22 April 1926.
Portraits and self portraits include: D.H. Souter, 'Drawing on his imagination’ (self portrait with muse), Smith’s Weekly 1931 (original Norman Lindsay Gallery, National Trust NSW). David Low , 'Norman Lindsay and Souter Swop Models: Souter gets a Low deal here, the bear getting off with his cat’ (appeared in Lone Hand sans caption 1 April 1914, 318, republished Bulletin 1956: original unlocated). Photograph in Taylor, 39. Mick Paul , caricature of Souter as one of his cats, Lone Hand July 1907, 280. Will Dyson , caricature of Souter smoking a pipe with a cat coming out of it, published in 1907 Society of Artists’ catalogue, 29 (original unlocated), annotated:
“D.H. SOUTER, born in Scotland, escaped to Australia 1885 [arr. Melbourne 1886, acc. Mills, in Sydney by 1887] began an art career by drawing cats, and gradually worked his way up to [sic] animal kingdom, until now he can draw women. At an early art age, Souter decided that he ought to have imagination, and he got it. He has a Scotch habit of getting everything he wants. If it is nailed down hard—well, an odd nail or two comes in handy to a family man with a hen-house to keep in repair. So far, Souter has done little notable work in colour; but there is yet time…”