cartoonist and illustrator, was born in 1892. Always known as 'Virgil’, the name he signed all his work, he was a very small man – he said he regarded himself as one of Sydney’s oldest leprechauns, according to Kirkpatrick. In the 1910s he worked as a commercial artist for a motion picture advertising firm (possibly in Melbourne) and contributed to Lone Hand , e.g. full-page illustration to story 'Good Doctor Haman’, published 1 July 1913, and soldier comforting a weeping woman, October 1915 cover. There are surviving WWI drawings by him on covers of programs of Melbourne charity events. In a Hazel de Berg oral history tape (NLA) he talks about the circumstances surrounding his appointment as an artist to Melbourne Truth .

In 1920 Virgil joined Smith’s Weekly as a staff artist in Sydney where he remained until 1940. 'Virgil girls’ in Smith’s were the sex symbols of Australia, the equivalent in the 1920s and early 1930s of the USA Gibson or Petty girls; they made him one of Australia’s best known and highly-paid newspaper artists. Examples in Smith’s from 1926 to mid-1930s (in file & also ill. Caban 44, 45) include 'First Typiste: “I walked nine miles last night.”/ Second ditto: “For goodness sake –!”/ First: “Yes”’, published 19 June 1926, 23; woman to chemist: “Have you a drug that will render a man insensible until I’ve married him?” 1935 (ill. Lindesay 1979, 215).

For a time Virgil also drew the political cartoons in Smith’s , e.g. 'He Promised Them the Earth and He Gave Them the Dole’, an anti-Lang cartoon of 18 July 1931; a German soldier atop a large iron hat under which Jewish corpses are buried, 1933. His social criticism includes The Great Illusion , published 22 March 1930, 13; also (a couple in evening dress at dance) '“She: Cheer up, Jack! The depression can’t last much longer!”/ He: “No more can I!”’, published 2 May 1931; and Just Explaining why they didn’t let George do it (re Royal visit to Australia), 12 May 1934, 6. An original cartoon, 'Is her husband good to her?’/ 'Yes I don’t think (she) found out yet!’ (SLNSW), was probably drawn for Smith’s in the 1930s. A similar undated one in the Stan Cross collection depicts two women sitting on an open verandah arch – “Marie dresses beautifully.”/ “Yes, she must find her husband out in some dreadful things” – is in Rainbow (p.51).

After leaving Smith’s Virgil became the political cartoonist on the Sydney Daily Mirror and the Melbourne Truth , then freelanced. His original Bulletin drawing (ML Px D477/39), 'Tea has revived you, Mr. Smith!’ [1940s?], was included in the 'SEX’ section of the Australians in black & white : the most public art , SLNSW exhibition 1999. Its original caption was: 'Of course I’d like to hear all about your job, Mr. Dinwithy’. He drew cartoons for Man and was a war correspondent for the Australian Women’s Weekly . In 1958 Virgil won the inaugural Walkley Award for the best creative artwork or cartoon, while Randolph Charles Altmann of the Sydney Morning Herald won the inaugural award for best press artwork. (There were no art categories for the Walkleys in 1956-57.) Virgil’s sentimental drawing commemorating Legacy Week shows the ghost of soldier embracing his schoolgirl daughter who is laying a wreath to his memory (see Walkley).

Virgil was married five times and had four sons: one was killed in the war, one died in a car accident (his widow married the Director of Associated News with Smith’s connections). After fire destroyed Virgil’s Potts Point flat and all his belongings in 1968 (he and his fifth wife, Anna, escaped by going under the floor), a 'Virgil Fund’ was opened to aid the artist. Kirkpatrick states that Virgil died of a cerebral haemorrage in 1974, aged 82.

Kerr, Joan
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