Editor, journalist and cartoonist, Mark Boxer (1931-88) once wrote that “our pleasure in cartoons is recognising the truth they uncover”. In his distinctively sparse caricatures, of public figures ranging from Dr Henry Kissinger to Dame Edna Everage, the recognisable truth he hoped to capture was his subject’s personality. In his cartoon strips, it was the absurdity, vanity and hypocrisy of the English upper-middle and upper classes.
Left: “Which Of These Dresses Is More Left Of Centre?, The Times, 1972. Right: “I Read This Very Sound Tory Manifesto”, Daily Telegraph, 1987
Boxer occupied himself with drawing, writing and editing from his undergraduate years onwards. While at King’s College, Cambridge, he was editor of Granta and contributed cartoons to Lilliput. His reputation for iconoclasm was established early; in 1953 he was sent down from Cambridge for publishing a blasphemous poem. According to The Times, his supporters organised a mock funeral with Boxer leaving Cambridge in a hearse followed by a thousand “mourners”.This high-profile setback hardly seems to have hampered Boxer’s progress on Fleet Street. By 30 he was editor of the newly-established Sunday Times Magazine, in which he would publish artists and photographers such as David Hockney, Don McCullin, Eve Arnold, Lord Snowdon and Peter Blake.
“Francis Bacon”, Observer, 1985
But it is for his drawings—signed “Marc”—that Boxer will be remembered. Like the best cartoonists, Boxer was an artist who could keep to the deadlines of daily newspapers and weekly magazines without haste ever compromising his work. He insisted on drawing his caricatures from life, wanting to “see people in their natural habitat and off their guard”. This sometimes meant finding out where his distinguished subjects were eating lunch that day, following them there and, from a quiet corner, watching and sketching.
“HM Queen Elizabeth”, Harpers & Queen, 1976
In 1967, with Peter Preston, Boxer created “Life and Times in NW1” for The Listener, a comic strip poking fun at trendy media couple Simon and Joanna String-Along. Elsewhere, as in “In the Country—In the City”, it would be Tory stereotypes that found themselves in Boxer’s crosshairs. No one was safe from the pen of the lifelong Labour voter who went on to edit Tatler, a man whom the critic Jonathan Meades described as an “elegantly packaged mass of irreconcilable contradictions and uncomfortable antagonisms”.