Category Archives: Reginald Coulter

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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Reginal Walter Coulter (1904 Christchurch, New Zealand – c.1972 Sydney, Australia) Part One

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R.W. Coulter, The Bower Bird, c. 1933, ink drawing, image sourced from the children’s book, The Bubble Galleon: A holiday pantomime by Ernest Wells illustrated by R.W. Coulter, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1934

One of Australia’s leading and most prolific illustrators, cartoonists once lived in Berowra. Born in New Zealand Reginald Walter Coulter known as Reg was a gifted cartoonist, illustrator, printmaker and writer and as a regular contributor to The Bulletin from the 1920s through to the 50s his works were highly regarded amongst this readership. He studied art at the Julian Ashton art school in Sydney which led to a job as an illustrator for the Woman’s Mirror and the magazine the Aussie.

His versatility in the medium produced an array of witty and at times sardonic cartoons and caricatures. His Aussie sense of humour mixed with socio-political commentary witnessed titles such as Belt into him comrades, 1931 ink on paper and It’s a ‘ard life, 1930, ink cartoon of a schoolboy. During the Second World War, he produced cartoons that depicted loss and a sense of yearning for home but touched with great wit and humor, which was an important ingredient for instilling morale both on the war and home fronts. Coulter continued to contribute to The Bulletin throughout the 1950s, highly recognised these works were subsequently published in Joan Kerr’s ground-breaking book, Artists and Cartoonists in Black and White, 1999. One of the cartoons titled This year the Mutual Admiration Art Society is going all-out for the Archibald Prize, 1958, shows two male artists identical in looks and dress – wearing berets, sandals and Grecian style tunics and another pair of men identical painting each other ‒ a send-up of the vanity behind the making of self-portraits by male artists and at the same time having a dig at the “in-crowd”. Perhaps he was also alluding to the gender inequality of the Archibald Prize at the time.

Reg and his wife Eve moved to Berowra in 1958. Reg built a unique stone cottage using flagstone sourced from the Berowra estate, stylistically akin to a fairy-tale type house. Here surrounded by magnificent views of the bush, Coulter’s illustrations further developed to encapsulate the Berowra bushland and its native wildlife. Reg Coulter’s cartoons are represented in the National Museum of Australia, National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales.

Rhonda

Note: If you have any Reg Coulter illustrations or cartoons in your collection at home we would be very interested to hear from you.

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