Cartoons were Lionel Coventry’s stock-in-trade — and he pointed his pen at the rich and famous


During his lifetime, Lionel Coventry loved a excessive profile — which, for a person drawn to human profiles, was solely becoming.

A caricaturist, cartoonist, and satirist, Coventry was fascinated by faces and their lineaments.

His chosen topics were, naturally, the rich and the famous — the influencers of his day.

“[English playwright] Noel Coward said to him, ‘I want to take you back to Hollywood’, because caricatures were a big thing in Hollywood back in the 30s,” Lionel’s son, Roger, stated.

“But Dad never wanted to leave Adelaide — he wanted to stay here.”

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A caricature of Victor Richardson.
Victor Richardson excelled at many sports activities together with cricket, Australian Rules soccer and baseball.(Supplied: SANFL)

The phrase prolific would not do justice to Coventry’s output.

In the course of his profession, he sketched an estimated 30,000 figures — principally for newspapers and magazines, in Adelaide and round Australia.

A mere fraction of that complete has now gone on present at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide.

In addition to figures from the wine business, these featured prominently embrace legal professionals and sports activities stars — the latter chosen to enrich an ongoing parallel exhibition at the State Library of South Australia, celebrating 145 years of the SANFL.

“I love football history, and history in general I absolutely adore,” stated SANFL historical past centre supervisor Chris Halbert.

“I just thought, ‘Here is a significant person from South Australia who’s not been recognised for all of his wonderful work’.

“I had seen Lionel Coventry’s caricature of [former Test cricket captain] Vic Richardson, which is in right here, and additionally the one among [SANFL star] Lindsay Head, and they were simply implausible.”

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SANFL History Centre manager Chris Halbert.
Chris Halbert organised the exhibition at the National Wine Centre.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Daniel Keane)

‘Like a bloody bullfrog!’

Coventry, who died in 1986, was born in Broken Hill in 1906 but moved to Adelaide at a young age.

He worked as a journalist before making the leap — during an Ashes tour — from words to pictures.

“Dad went down and drew the entire workforce and got here again and it was revealed on the entrance web page of one among the English newspapers,” Roger said.

“That was his huge break.”

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A caricature of former Sturt captain Len Fitzgerald by cartoonist Lionel Coventry.
Three-time Magarey Medallist Len Fitzgerald captained Sturt throughout the Fifties.(Supplied: SANFL)

In the decades that followed, the Coventry home became filled to the brim with drawings and sketches.

“We were surrounded by Dad’s caricatures as a result of he labored from house [and] there were a few rooms in the home that turned his studios,” Roger said.

“He would have deadlines to drop off all his caricatures as soon as every week.

“[When] we used to go to town for the Christmas pageant with him … people would stop him in the street and say, ‘Lionel Coventry!’ He was a bit like a movie star.”

The caricaturist’s alternative of profession entails sure hazards, and there’s at least one story of somebody contemplating suing Coventry out of disgruntlement at the means they’d been depicted.

“There are stories of people who didn’t like it,” Roger stated.

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Caricatures of members of the legal profession.
Lawyers were amongst the topics of Coventry’s caricatures.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Daniel Keane)

The venerable, the honourable, the esteemed, the lauded, the completed, the bumptious, the po-faced, the retiring and the immodest were all captured by Coventry.

Among those that disapproved was an American army officer, who angrily protested: “You’ve made me look like a bloody bullfrog!”

But whereas his work is replete with the elongated noses, protuberant ears, bulbous chins and puffy cheeks which can be the primary instruments of the cartoonist’s commerce, Coventry’s pen was usually a beneficiant one.

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A playful self-portrait by Adelaide caricaturist Lionel Coventry.
Coventry additionally turned the pen on himself, as demonstrated by this playful self-portrait.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Daniel Keane)

His function wasn’t ridicule for its personal sake, however to impress the type of chortling that the topics themselves may partake in.

Indeed, his sense of humour was such that he did not spare himself from his personal crosshairs, sending himself up in a self-portrait.

In that sketch — which reveals a person in late middle-age, his hair greying and his hairline receding — there’s the trace of a smirk as the eye glances sideways.

“He was a bit of a show-off, he loved to sketch people,” Roger recalled.

“The beauty of a caricature is that it’s really about trying to bring out personality.”

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