Bird, Cyril K. (Fougasse)

Date of Birth:
17 Dec 1887
Date of Death:
Bird, Cyril K. (Fougasse)

Cyril Kenneth Bird was a cartoonist, illustrator and commercial designer best known for his humorous cartoons drawn in a simple linear style.

Bird was born in London on 17 December 1887, the son of England cricketer Arthur Bird. His father insisted that he study engineering at King's College, London. However, the young man also attended evening art classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic and the London County Council School of Photo-engraving and Lithography. Bird graduated with a BSc in Civil Engineering in 1908.

In 1914, Bird married artist Mary (Mollie) Holden. He had already joined the army in 1913, and during the First World War, he became an officer in the Royal Engineers. In 1915, Bird was blown up by a shell at Gallipoli, and was not expected to live. The blast shattered his back and he was unable to walk for three years. While he was convalescing, he took lessons by correspondence from Percy Bradshaw's Press Art School.

The satirical news magazine, Punch, accepted its first cartoon in 1916, topically entitled 'War's brutalising influence'. Bird submitted it under a pseudonym, 'Fougasse', which means a small land mine of unpredictable performance. He adopted the new name to avoid confusion with another Punch artist signing himself Bird: W Bird.

Fougasse became a regular contributor to Punch. He became the magazine's art editor in 1937, then its editor in 1949 until his retirement in 1953. Other magazines he contributed to were The Bystander, London Opinion, The Graphic, and Tatler. He also started to publish books that he had either written or illustrated. These were mainly books of cartoons or war propaganda from the Second World War.

Fougasse produced a number of public information posters for London Transport and its predecessors between 1925 and 1945. His witty observational humour was a bold new way to communicate with passengers and present codes of conduct in an eye-catching and memorable way. This was particularly important during the Second World War when London Transport was experiencing staff, vehicle and parts shortages, and the problem of overcrowding had greatly increased.

Fougasse is most famous for the cartoons produced during the Second World War. He offered his services free to the government, designing visual propaganda for nearly every government ministry. He also designed for charities and voluntary groups. He was described as 'the most sought-after humorous artist of our time'. Fougasse suggested that humour was a perfect vehicle for propaganda, as these posters had to overcome three obstacles:

Alternate Names

  • Fougasse

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