Monday 11 February 2008 by Yasmin Green. No comments
New acquisitions, Art

A sketchbook of humorous pre-First World War caricatures has recently been acquired by the Australian War Memorial. Members of the Royal Australian Artillery (RAA), located at Queenscliff, Victoria, are depicted in this work dating from 1909-1910. Referred to as the "budget" of the regiment and located in what once appeared to be an accounting book, the works were created by an anonymous artist using the name "Zif".

At the beginning of the book, "Zif" ascertains that "You may rest assured that if you have anything meritorious in your composition, or disposition, we will faithfully portray it; on the other hand, if you incur our disfavour, you may expect no mercy". The caricatures attempt to encapsulate the essence of the individual and some depictions are quite unflattering.

ART93180 “Bummy Brown”, from a sketchbook of humorous pre-First World War caricatures by an anonymous artist using the name “Zif”

"Bummy Brown" is portrayed as a stein of beer, Phil Cray as a crayfish (a simple play on words presumably), and another RAA gentleman as a dachshund. On the other hand, Charlie Hudd, a man who went on to serve in the First World War as a gunner in the Siege Artillery Brigade, is depicted as the regiment's champion rugby player. Interspersed with verse by "Absolam", the sketchbook contains over 50 caricatures, and several works identify the individual portrayed. This would leave those men in no doubt about how their fellow RAA members perceived them.

ART93180 “Brainy Dick”, from a sketchbook of humorous pre-First World War caricatures by an anonymous artist using the name “Zif”