Reginald Walter Coulter (1904–1976) Part Two

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Amendments to Part One: Aided by the amazing local knowledge provided by Neil Davis and backed by research undertaken by David Lever we have now established that Reginald Coulter was actually a long time Berowra resident. Previously we believed that he had arrived in Berowra sometime in the 1950s, but we can now say that Coulter came to Berowra in 1943. This adjustment certainly changes the way we view his cartoons of that period, particularly post Second World War. Additionally, we have confirmed his date of death to be 24 January 1976, which had not been notated in the public record.

This extremely detailed and finely drawn illustration by Reginald Coulter was produced specifically as an invitation to staff to attend the Bulletin’s annual picnic day.  Using the idea of a Corroboree to promote the Bulletin’s picnic day from today’s perspective is ironic. After all, the Bulletin incited a radical nationalist viewpoint at the exclusion of Indigenous people and migrants; they were seen as not part of the ‘Australian story’.  It championed the idea that Australia was for the ‘White Man’, sexist, racist and xenophobic, the Bulletin also became affectionately known in certain circles as the ‘Bushman’s bible’, everything and anything Australian was acceptable and highly celebrated, but at the exclusion of any world relations, issues or politics. By 1925, at the time when Coulter had illustrated this invitation, the founding editor of the Bulletin, John Archibald had left the magazine; he had built a solid readership and supported the careers of great writers and poets such as AB Paterson, Henry Lawson and Miles Franklin. On Archibald’s departure the magazine dipped not only in readership but also became a lot more conservative until Sir Frank Packer took control in 1961. With all that said, what is striking is the way the black-and-white artist Reginald Coulter has utilized the idea of a Corroboree to promote the annual picnic day creating a stylized depiction of dancers that appropriates Indigenous features with Western modes of dance – essentially a communion of people coming together in celebration.

Coulter’s wry commentary including a Who’s Who list on the invite is pertinent as the Bulletin supported a whole new generation of Australian writers and black-and-white artists like no other magazine of its period which rolled out as a who’s who list. In the foreground of the image, the Bulletin is represented as the strong and resilient bulldog against its more subdued competitors of a slinking slim cat and fluffy small dog Wildcat Monthly and the Australian Woman’s Mirror racing against time not to miss the departure of the boat is yet another clever twist of words and images that work in unison under the magical hand of the extraordinary black-and-white artist Reginald Coulter.

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2 thoughts on “Reginald Walter Coulter (1904–1976) Part Two

  1. maryjoe7D says:

    Such a good account of social values of the time, and so strongly promoted by the Bulletin.
    Thanks Rhonda

  2. R W Coulter designed a number of beautiful bookplates (ex libris) in the 1920s and 1930s; see an example on the New Australian Bookplate Society’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NewAustralianBookplates/photos/a.1704125553189667.1073741829.1704061239862765/1808015649467323/?type=3&theater

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