As a result of the work that he produced for the London Evening Standard and the Mail between the 1960s and the 1990s, Jak became one of Britain’s best-loved cartoonists. Though he was a political cartoonist, he attempted to be impartial, and approached his subject from a social angle, by employing widely recognised stereotypes as often as specific caricatures. Raymond Jackson was born in the Middlesex Hospital, London, on 11 March 1927, the only child of the tailor, Maurice Jackson (formerly Jacobovitz), and his wife, Marie (née Murphy), who also worked in the ‘rag trade’. He was educated at Clipstone Street School, Fitzrovia, and Lyulph Stanley Central School, Camden Town. At the time of the 1939 Register, when he was 12 years old, his parents were living at 132 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, though he was staying in Luton, Bedfordshire (possibly as an evacuee).
When Jackson left school in 1941 at the age of 14, he initially worked as a messenger boy close to home in Great Titchfield Street. However, he soon began to study at the Willesden College of Technology, alongside the illustrator, Peter Jackson.
After two years of general education, he studied art with the intention of becoming an art teacher. Enlisting in the Territorial Army in 1945, he spent three years in the Army Education Corps teaching conscripts to paint, in Italy, Palestine and Egypt, and achieved the rank of sergeant. In 1948, he returned to Willesden School of Art to study commercial art and, after two years, graduated with a National Diploma in Design.
In 1950, Jackson became a staff artist at Link House Publications, and took on such tasks as retouching pubic hair on photographs for Health & Efficiency, and drew ‘a series of cartoons about a character called Curly’ (Mark Bryant, ODNB). A year later, he moved to the advertising agency, J Keymer & Co, and, while working there, also began to contribute cartoons to Punch, Lilliput and other publications. In 1952, he joined the Evening Standard, first in the advertising department and then as a general illustrator and occasional cartoonist. In 1957, he married Claudie Grenier, a French au pair, whom he had met at the Linguists’ Club in Kensington. They would have two daughters and a son.
In 1966, Jackson became the Evening Standard’s political cartoonist, succeeding the late Vicky, and signing as ‘Jak’. The resulting cartoons were collected, from that year, in annuals, which, like those of his model, Giles, were bought avidly as Christmas presents. At the same time, he drew for its sister paper, the Daily Express, on Saturdays. Following the purchase of the Evening Standard by Associated Newspapers in 1986, he drew for the Daily Mail on Saturday and the Mail on Sunday. Despite his great success, he could occasionally provoke controversy. One of his cartoons, entitled Homo-electrical-sapiens Britannicus 1970, proved particularly unpopular with certain sectors of his public, notably union members, and nearly resulted in the Evening Standard’s closure by industrial action. In addition to his cartoons, he illustrated books, produced advertisements, painted watercolours, and even wrote occasional articles for the Evening Standard, usually on the subject of travel. The last led to assignments to Malaya (to train with the British Army), the Golan Heights, Borneo and Aden (where he became friendly with members of the SAS).
A founder member of the British Cartoonists’ Association (1965), Jackson received a number of awards. Most notably, the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain voted him Political/Social Cartoonist of the Year on the three occasions (1964, 1965, 1985), and the British Press Awards named him Cartoonist of the Year in 1980.
Jackson died at his home in Wimbledon on 27 July 1997 following a heart operation.
His work is represented in the collections of the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent (Canterbury).
Mark Bryant, ‘Jackson, Raymond Allen [pseud. Jak] (1927–1997)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2007, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/67308;
Lord Rothermere (intro) & Peter McKay (foreword), Jak: The Life and Works of Britain’s Best Loved Cartoonist, London: Solo Books for Associated Newspapers, 1997