Little Man cartoon of 9 October 1933.

Sidney Strube was an early 20th-century British political cartoonist and caricaturist, who was once the highest paid in his profession. Between 1912 and 1948, he was house cartoonist of the Daily Express. He is best remembered for his recurring character 'The Little Man' (1927-1956), whom he used as a representation of the average Briton. During the 1930s and 1940s, the character was used in British military propaganda. Hitler even banned the Daily Express in Nazi Germany because he felt offended by Strube's cartoons.

Early life and career
Sidney Conrad Strube was born in 1892 in Bishopsgate, London, as the child of a wine merchant and pub owner of German descent. Among his graphic influences were Bernard Partridge, Frank Reynolds and David Low. Strube studied art at St. Martin's School of Art. After graduation, he started working as a junior draughtsman with a furnishing company, followed by a job as an artist for an advertising agency. In 1910 he continued his studies at the John Hassall School of Art. While he attended this school, he submitted some of his cartoons to the Conservative & Unionist Magazine. This lead to publications in the magazines Bystander, The Evening Times and The Throne and Country.

The Daily Express
A cartoon refused by the latter magazine was accepted by the Daily Express and printed one day later. Strube realized he had found the newspaper that suited him, and signed an exclusive freelance contract with them. From 1912 on he was the Daily Express house cartoonist. One year later, the paper already published a book collection with his cartoons. Strube made political cartoons which caricatured both the British government, as well as international affairs. Since his work was gentle, many readers adored him. Even British politicians were flattered rather than offended and often requested to receive the original artwork.


Strube cartoon of 3 June 1935.

First World War
Strube served his country during the First World War. As a corporal, he fought in France, but still found time to draw cartoons and send them back to the Daily Express. One of these drawings, 'Back to Rest', was even made with liquid mud from the trenches. After the war, his return was greeted by the Daily Express with the headline: "Strube Comes Back". Strube remained popular with readers his entire career. By the late 1920s, he was already one of the highest paid cartoonists in the country.

The Little Man
In his cartoons, Strube often used a character who wore a floppy moustache, bowler hat, pince nez glasses, a bow-tie and umbrella. In short: a stereotypical Englishman. The nameless character made his debut in 1927, but was nicknamed "The Little Man" by readers. Strube used him throughout his career as a representation of the English everyman who suffered under life's burdens but still carried on - stiff upper lip intact - with an optimistic outlook on the future. Or as he described him: "The man in the street, trying to keep his ear to the ground, his nose to the grindstone, his eye to the future and his chin up - all at the same time." David Low said in October 1939: "The Little Man is important to wartime national identity, because other symbols of Britishness in wartime are no longer appropriate. The British Lion and what not are nothing but a lot of obsolete rot - RIP to all that Britannia Stodge I say. And that includes John Bull, that symbol of smug and narrow patriotism too, who bears no resemblace, inside or out, to the modern educated fit Briton." W.H. Auden referenced the Little Man in his 1937 poem 'Letter to Lord Byron'. One famous writer who disliked the character was George Orwell. In his novel 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying' (1936) Orwell wote: "the typical bowler-hatted sneak - Strube's 'little man'".


Strube cartoon from 12 January 1943.

Second World War
During the Second World War, Strube drew propaganda posters to support the British war effort. Since 1936 the Daily Express was banned in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, long before the countries were at war with the British. The main reason were Strube's critical cartoons of Hitler and Mussolini. A German liason officer in the United Kingdom even claimed that the Little Man character looked suspiciously Jewish.

Recognition
Strube was made a Freeman of the City of London and a member of the London Sketch Club and the Savage. In 1934 he was even honored with his own wax statue at London's Madame Tussauds museum, alongside fellow cartoonists David Low and Percy Fearon.

Final years and death
Nevertheless, despite his long track record and patriotic accomplishments, Strube was still fired by the Daily Express on 30 December 1948, which happened to be his birthday. He had fallen into an argument with editor Arthur Christiansen, and was replaced by the new house cartoonists Michael Cummings and Carl Giles. Strube then signed up as cartoonist with The Sunday Times, Time & Tide, Everybody's and Tatler. He also earned money by drawing advertisements for Guinness. Sidney Conrad Strube passed away in 1956 from a heart attack in his home in Golders Green.

Legacy and influence
His work was an influence on Ronald Searle. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin once said: "Strube is a gentle genius. I don't mind his attacks, because he never hits below the belt."

Series and books by Sidney Strube in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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