GILES, [Carl] Ronald

1916 - 1995

Carl Giles

Born Ronald Giles at 413 City Road, near the Angel, Islington, London on 29 September 1916, the youngest son (there was a younger daughter) of Albert Edward Giles, tobacconist, and his wife, Emma Edith, née Clarke, dressmaker. Known as Carl because of his childhood haircut echoed that of the actor Boris Karloff. Already bespectacled Giles was educated at Barnsbury Park School, where his mischief was restrained by the sarcastic, skeletal Mr Chalk, a teacher who, as ‘Chalky’, later became one of his most enduring cartoon creations. Giles began work as an office boy then as an animator at ‘Superads’ in Charing Cross Road, London. Between 1930 and 1935 at Alexander Korda's studios in Elstree he was a principal animator, under the artist Anthony Gross also helped to animate versions of Roland Davies's Sunday Express strip ‘Come on Steve’. He joined the 'Reynolds News' drawing cartoons, illustrations and ‘Young Ernie’, a strip. John Gordon enticed Giles's into drawing for the 'Sunday Express' which was published on 3 October 1943 and later that month he became deputy cartoonist to Sidney Strube on the Daily Express and the paper's war correspondent. On 14 March 1942, at St John's Church, East Finchley, Giles married (Sylvia) Joan Agnes Clarke (1918–1994), his first cousin but had no children. The couple moved from Islington to Edgware then to Ipswich and just after the war Giles bought Hillbrow Farm, a 17th century farmhouse in Witnesham, near Ipswich, Suffolk. Strube left the Daily Express in 1948, thereafter Giles, dealing with social subjects, alternated with the young right-wing political cartoonist Michael Cummings. The artist's most-loved creation, the Giles family, made its first appearance in the Sunday Express on 5 August 1945 and for four decades with the invincible Grandma, who invariably wore ankle-length black bombazine and an alarming frown. The making of three large cartoons a week, taking from eight to ten hours each, required a self-discipline not always manifest in Giles's life. A genuinely modest man, Giles avoided talking about himself or his work, which he believed spoke for itself. His friendships ranged from the many eccentrics, acquaintances, and drinking companions near home to Prince Philip, Prince Charles, the royal family owns a large collection of Giles originals, and Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook's son). Giles drew more than 7,000 cartoons for the Daily Express and Sunday Express and a Giles annual appeared every year from 1946.
During his last decade Giles suffered seriously from encroaching physical disabilities, weakening eyesight, increasing deafness, and worsening blood circulation, and in 1989, after forty-seven years, he quit and in the following year further problems with his circulation resulted in both legs being amputated. Giles was appointed OBE in 1959 and was a founder member in 1966, and later president, of the British Cartoonists' Association (BCA) and in 1990 awarded a senior fellowship of the Royal College of Art, and in 1993 a large retrospective exhibition was organized by the Cartoon Art Trust. At 78 Carl Giles was grief-stricken when his wife Joan died on Christmas day 1994. In spite of the consolation offered by his many friends Giles died eight months later at Ipswich Hospital on 27 August 1995. A statue of Grandma, Vera, and Butch the dog was unveiled in Ipswich in 1993, while at Felixstowe the support and rescue boat Grandma was launched in May 1999.

Works by This Painter