Friday, September 21, 2007

GABRIEL-THE MESSENGER-The Cartoons of Jimmy Friell

A new exhibition of the work of Glaswegian-born Jimmy Friell has just opened in London. Friell was acknowledged, in the 1930s, as one of Fleet Street’s finest cartoonists, and under the pseudonym Gabriel, he put his humour and his brilliant drawing skills to work for the Communist Party's daily paper , the Daily Worker, now published as the Morning Star. In 1935, he sent some satirical political cartoons to the Daily Worker, guessing correctly that it was the only newspaper radical enough to print them. The Daily Worker’s staff liked his cartoons but couldn’t pay him. Friell told them to use them anyway. A few months later the paper offered him a job as their regular cartoonist, and he joined them early in March 1936. By then, the Daily Worker’s staff had transformed a rather humourless propaganda organ, begun in 1930 by the Communist Party of Great Britain, into a fully professional newspaper. Its appearance and contents were as up-to-date as any mainstream Fleet Street paper. The addition of Gabriel’s cartoons gave its leader/editorial page a new cutting edge, as did his other work on the paper. Bill Rust, one of the founders and editors, noted Friell’s arrival: "Gabriel first appeared on the scene in February 1936. In him was immediately recognised an artist with a sure political understanding. Both his artistic and political ‘line’ were just what we were waiting for! Apart from being a cartoonist, Gabriel is also a writer and critic of considerable talent". Jimmy Friell chose an appropriate nom de guerre for his Daily Worker cartoons: "In one way or another then it looked like the last trumpet was being sounded for existing society, so I took the pen name of Gabriel, the Archangel and settled down to helping the process along. My value lay in supplying the humour that the paper rather desperately needed."
His cartoons mordantly illustrate WH Auden’s epitaph for the 1930s. “The clever hopes expire, of a low dishonest decade.” His subjects ranged from the Hunger Marchers, the debilitating unemployment and the meagre dole, the state of race relations, the thuggery of the British Union of Fascists to the increasing threat to peace from the Fascists abroad.
Gabriel was particularly witty at using British national symbols to deride the systematic news management of the Government. On the threat of war from the Japanese and the Fascists, he was strikingly prescient. His depictions of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler are only exceeded in their bite by his series of attacks on the tragically misguided Neville Chamberlain. Perhaps his most memorable symbol was the Axis horse (or mule?) – a centaur with Hitler’s head, and Mussolini as its hind end. In November 1956, he became disillusioned with the Party and walked out over the stance the newspaper took over the Soviet intervention in Hungary. Sadly for Gabriel, although he did work for other newspapers such as the Evening Standard, his departure from the Daily Worker marked the end of his heyday as a political cartoonist.Jimmy Friell remained a convinced socialist until his death on 4th February 1997.
Fallen Angel! The political cartoons of the Daily Worker cartoonist “Gabriel” is at the Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, London WC1. The exhibition runs until 28 April.


ian said...

Thanks for your comment.
Fraternal greetings.



Unknown said...

Yes, please link

"Independence Cymru"


ian said...

forgot to add

Derek Wall said...


Just put a link to this blog on Another Green World!

Keep up the good word,

Leftwing Criminologist said...

hi gabriel, please feel free to link to my blog and feel free to comment on the articles, particularly crime ones, is not discused by the left often enough in my opnion. are corresponding link to your blog will be appearing shortly.


Tom Griffin said...

Hi Gabriel, you have been duly added to the Green Ribbon blogroll as well.

Unknown said...

Hi Gabriel,
This looks like an interesting and quality blog and I will be glad to link with it.
I am having trouble with my links just now, and a lot of frustration trying to get help and information from google-blogger, as to why links are not working. But I will try to get it sorted and will keep in touch.

landsker said...

Hi Gabriel, found your link on a "Welsh" site.
I`m a great fan of cartoonists, as they seem to "hit the button" in ways that writers cannot.
Interestingly, one wonders if the WW2 cartoonists knew of the american "establishment" support for Hitler/Franco?Mussolini et al.
As is said, the iron curtain kept the Russians in, but also kept the Americans away from ...all that oil.

Txel·li said...

Hi Gabriel!
I've found your blog site too interesting. I'll link it to mine.
By the way, I didn't know Jimmy Friell's works, and he's excellent.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Txeli from Barcelona.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gabriel.
Thanks for your article on Gabriel the cartoonist, of whom I have fond memories as I come from a family where the Daily Worker was read and closely followed every day. He was always excellent. Political cartooning is a noble and necessary art, as well as an entertaining one.

Ken, Somerset.

Anonymous said...


Mine is but merely one small voice
As will have no impact
Upon the ground, this "war of choice"

Attacked a seated despot who
Had little chance to harm us,
As--known before and by review--
With righteousness we arm us.

My role is but a small one; not
To influence the course
Events may take, or try to plot
An end to future wars;

Rather, the actions as they go
To comment on in song,
To mention consequential woe
Because the course was wrong.

Vast multitudes the war has harmed
While me it but annoys,
Because unjust--so pen is warmed
While I raise my small voice.

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