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September 23, 2007

Peter Whalley, 1921-2007


Peter Whalley, an esteemed Canadian cartoonist, scupltor and illustrator who worked in newspaper, books and on TV, died last week in St. Jerome, Quebec, after an extended period of illness. Whalley was a prolific and popular cartoonist, and one of the more important post-war cartoonists in terms of setting a modern tone on the page in terms of the range of humor and a free, expressive line. He was also through his regular appearances on CBC television of one of the higher profile cartoonists in his country. Peter Whalley was 86 years old.

imageWhalley was born in Brockville, Ontario and grew up in Halifax. He eventually attended the Nova Scotia College of Art. He sold his first cartoon cartoon before World War II, but that element of his professional life was interrupted when he served in the merchant marines during that period. He moved to Montreal to pursue fine art, but began working for the Standard as a cartoonist. The piece in the Montreal Gazette -- one of Whalley's long-time clients -- asserts that the artist's most prolific period was the 1960s through the 1970s, when he did a lot of high profile magazine work for publications like Maclean's (including several well-regarded covers), did the top news story every week in cartoon form on the Observer television, and even created film strips.

imageAmong Whalley's best known projects were a series of books he illustrated for the humor writer Eric Nicol that poked fun at modern Canadian culture and society, among them An Uninhibited History of Canada, Say Uncle, 100 Years of What?, Canadian Politics Unplugged and the wonderfully-titled Canada Canceled Because of Lack of Interest. A book of his cartoons exists called Bird on a Wire and he parodied Canadian art in Northern Blights: More Than Anyone Needs to Know About Canadian Painting.

Canadian comics historian and Doug Wright Awards administrator Brad MacKay says that the famous Whalley sense of humor could be turned onto the cartoonist himself. "After I informed him that he had been one of the inaugural inductees into the Wright Awards Hall of Fame, the Giants of the North, he sent me a thank you note saying 'At this point, I'm a real giant: aging and near mythical,'" MacKay told CR. "Last month we sent him his Giants medal, and his daughter said he made a point of wearing it in the hospital and pointing it out to the nurses who filed through... all self-mockingly."

MacKay says that he and fellow Whalley fan Seth are planning a book about him.

More information on Whalley can be found in his profile on the Giants of the North site. One of his CBC clips can be found here, and another here.

Whalley is survived by a wife of 59 years and three daughters.

posted 10:24 pm PST | Permalink

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