Hal Gye (22 May 1888–25 November 1967)

Australian cartoonist/artist Harold Frederick Neville Gye was born today at Ryde, New South Wales in 1888.

Hal Gye by David Low

New Zealand cartoonist David Low wrote about his friendship with Gye and writer C. J. Dennis in his autobiography, Low's Autobiography.

"Hal was a fantastic chap, thin, with long hair parted in the middle, a way of waving his arms about and an irresistible wit. When he wasn't drawing theatrical caricatures for the Bulletin, or illustrating Den, he was painting water-colour symphonies with a dreamy effect which he produced by losing his temper with them and putting them under the tap. After the second jet of water the picture almost disappeared leaving plenty to the imagination, which pleased mightily those who had the imagination. Den's chief claim to fame at first was that he was the author of the Austrabloodylaise, a vernacular piece known far and wide in Australia, of which the opening stanza gives the flavour:

Fellers of Australia, blokes and coves and coots,
Pull yer bloody pants on, tie yer bloody boots.

But he was then deep in the planning of a volume, The Sentimental Bloke, which was to bring him wide fame and an honoured place in Australian poetry. Meanwhile Den filled in as a civil servant complete with two-inch starched collar and vest slip, an effect quite unsuited to his bony-nosed Roman face.

Here were a couple of characters in whose company I found rest and understanding. We could laugh, shout, sing, exult, mourn, curse the wrongdoer in the open, as we wrestled with our work. (I was always one to talk to my work as it came out on my old drawing-board perched on a broken arm-chair.) Our trio expanded into an odd mixture of fellowship. Painters, poets and writers, of course, actors, farmers, civil servants, business men, politicians, an occasional Cabinet Minister, and on one red-letter day even Melba herself, the immortal song-bird. All I remember of her was that she was a bullying woman who ate a good deal and swore a lot. It was all one. Even on the blackest days I found relief in that pool of goodwill. In no other company could I ever have tried the experiment of sharing a studio. I have had many since, but all by comparison have had a touch of loneliness."

Below: Hal Gye illustrations for C. J. Dennis' Doreen.


Low illustration and biography excerpt swiped from Percy Middlemiss' excellent Matilda blog which has many samples of Gye's art and biographical notes.