Mid-Century Modern Cartoonist
by BK Munn
Peter Whalley, cartoonist, sculptor, Giant of the North. One of only two or three important postwar Canadian magazine cartoonists, Whalley died Tuesday, September 18.
Whalley was a mainstay of Maclean’s during the 1950s and 1960s, when that magazine was setting the visual tone for anglophone culture. His inventive, bug-eyed cartooning and stylish use of spot colour made his contributions stand out in tons of comic gags, feature illustrations, and covers. His drawings provided a lively, contemporary counterpoint to the photorealist illustration of his peers and gave a wry slant to every editorial and advertising job he took on.
Whalley teamed up with several humour writers, notably Eric Nicol, in the pages of Macleans and co-authored several humorous books about Canadian history and politics.
Whalley also self-published a series of largely-unseen art books with a puckish approach to fine art and culture.
From the Montreal Gazette:
Whalley, the son of an Anglican clergyman, was born in Brockville, Ont., on Feb. 20, 1921. He grew up in Halifax, where he attended the Nova Scotia College of Art.
He sold his first cartoon when he was 16, but the Second World War interrupted his budding artistic career. He served in the merchant marine during the war.
After the war, he moved to Montreal with intentions of becoming a serious artist, but once he began working for the Standard, “cartooning won out. It paid more,” he once said.
He moved to Morin Heights in the Laurentians, joined the local volunteer fire brigade, and for the rest of his life worked out of his home office.
He hit his stride in the 1960s and ’70s, when he turned out covers for Maclean’s, Weekend and the Montrealer magazines and did other commercial work.
He was a regular contributor to the CBC’s Observer television program, in which he illustrated the week’s top news stories with cartoons, and he did film strips for the National Film Board.