“Poet of the mundane”
by BK Munn
Cartoonist Sid Barron, dubbed “the poet of the mundane” by Robert Fulford, has died in Victoria at age 88.
Barron was one of the funniest and most stylistically distinctive cartoonists to emerge in the post-war editorial cartoon world in this country.
Born in Toronto in 1917 to a British mother and an un-identified Belgian soldier father, Barron was adopted by his maternal aunt and raised in Victoria, B.C.
With very little art training, Barron found work as a commercial illustrator and sign painter. According to Peter Desbarats and Terry Mosher in “The Hecklers”, during the Depression he did some illustration work for Toronto’s Star Weekly “until the paper discovered that for pennies it could buy cratefulls of illustrations that appeared originally in various American publications.”
During the Second World War, Barron found work in the short-lived Canadian comic book industry, producing strips for Educational Comics’ Canadian Heroes title. After the war, he received art training for a short period in Detroit and later found work across Canada.
In 1959 he began working for The Victoria Times as an editorial cartoonist. In 1961 he began a life-long association with the Toronto Star. He also found work with The Albertan in Calgary as well as with Maclean’s magazine.
Barron’s relatively mild yet satirically insightful topical cartoons of social mores and suburbia have been likened to the UK’s Giles but his closest Canadian counterpart, aesthetically and geographically, was probably Len Norris of Vancouver. The editorial cartoons of Doug Wright used a similar approach. Barron’s cartoons utilized a clear line and elegant, unexagerated figures placed in extremely cluttered backgrounds full of sight gags and signs, a mix of styles akin to the chaos of Wil Elder’s Mad cartoons crossed with the sophistication of a New Yorker gag. His two most distinctive trademarks were the sardonic banner-trailing biplane and a bored-looking, sign-toting Cheshire cat.
Barron lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle with his artist wife Jesi, raising several children in Victoria and on the road. In later years, the couple exhibited paintings with a West Coast theme.
A life-long smoker, Barron suffered from declining health for some years. He died in hospital Saturday, April 29.
(with thanks to Jeremy Spencer)
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