AUSTRALIAN CARTOONISTS’ ASSOCIATION
On 17 July 1924, a group of 24 disgruntled cartoonists and one poet met in rooms in the Royal Arcade in Sydney. They had all been members of the Society of Artists, which had run a number of events, including Artists’ Balls.
Each of these balls had been popular with members of the public and financially successful. But the cartoonists believed they had done all the work to enable these balls to take place, while other members of the Society of Artists had made all the decision regarding the spending of the profits.
In retaliation, the cartoonists formed the Australian Society of Black and White Artists. For more than 40 years, there had been cartoonists involved in almost every art society formed in Sydney. However, there were many splits and new groupings were not uncommon. But this split was different. The new body was the first association formed for the benefit of newspaper artists in Sydney. This was also the first association of newspaper artists anywhere in the world. Early in the 20th century, Sydney was one of the best places in the world for a cartoonist to work, led by the Bulletin and Smith’s Weekly.
Cecil Hartt, a cartoonist on Smith’s Weekly, was elected the first president of the new society. It was never intended to be a trade union or a professional body; rather, its aims were social. There were sketch nights, exhibitions, informal dinners and balls.
The 1924 Artists’ Ball conducted by the new society was intended to be similar to previous events. However, after it descended into a Bacchanalian riot, it was considered so outrageous that further Artists’ Balls were banned from the Sydney Town Hall. Council staff had to assist the police in clearing the hall the next day, and in getting the sick and wounded to hospital. There were calls from many in the community to have Artists’ Balls banned altogether.
The Australian Society of Black and White Artists (subsequently renamed the Black and White Artists’ Club) hosted over 20 Black and White Artists’ Balls, with the last being the Atomic Ball of 1946. Even though a successful exhibition of cartoons was held in the Sydney Journalists’ Club in 1964, for the best part of the next 30 years, the club restricted its activities to social events for members.
The membership waxed and waned over the years, and by 1984 there were fewer members in the Black and White Artists’ Club than there had been when the body was formed. Rather than just fold the club, the members decided to expand into a national body.They also wanted to run awards to promote cartooning in the media. They approached the Bulletin—which at the time was running around 50 cartoons a week—to take on sponsorship. A partnership was formed and in 1985 the first Bulletin Black and White Artists’ Awards (later renamed the Stanley Awards, after Stan Cross) were presented. The first Gold Stanley (for Cartoonist of the Year) was awarded to the Sydney Morning Herald ’s Alan Moir. Other Stanley categories are Best Illustrator, Comic Strip Artist, Single Gag Cartoonist, Caricaturist, Editorial/Political Cartoonist and Comic Book Artist.
The collaboration lasted until 1992 when the Bulletin changed editorial direction and reduced its cartoon content and withdrew from the event. Since then, with a membership hovering around 300, the Australian Cartoonists’ Association (as it has been known since 2002) has run the awards with support from other sections of the publishing industry. The first inductees to the Australian Cartoonists Hall of Fame were announced at the 25th Stanley Awards night in 2009.
The ACA’s Inkspot magazine has been published since 1986.
REF: V. Lindesay, Drawing from Life (1996).