Michael ffolkes (1925-1988) An adept watercolourist who worked with a free-flowing, sensual line, Michael ffolkes produced elegant, stylish and flamboyant cartoons, often featuring mythological subjects and adorned with large, sexy ladies. Michael ffolkes was born Brian Davis in London on 6 June 1925, the son of Walter Lawrence Davis, a commercial artist. He attended Leigh Hall College, a boarding school in Essex, before studying under John Farleigh at St Martin’s School of Art from 1941 to 1943. In 1942, aged 17, he had his first cartoon published in Punch. On leaving college, Davis worked in various commercial art studios, before joining the Royal Navy in 1943, where he served as a telegraphist in the Far East. Following the end of the Second World War, he returned to his studies, enrolling at Chelsea School of Art in 1946.
It was here that he adopted the name ‘Michael ffolkes’, chosen at random from Burke’s Peerage. It was at this time that his cartoons began appearing regularly in The Strand Magazine, Lilliput and Punch. He also exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition whilst still a student. He turned professional soon after graduating in 1949 and in 1953 he published the first collection of his cartoons, titled ffolkes’ ffanfare! In 1955, he began work with the Daily Telegraph, an association that would last for 30 years, illustrating the ‘Way of the World’ column four days a week, first with Colin Welch and later with Michael Wharton. In 1960, his work was published in Playboy for the first time, beginning an association with the magazine that would last for 20 years. He always considered himself a Punch cartoonist at heart and in addition to regularly contributing cartoons; he produced a number of Punch covers and also began producing caricatures to accompany film reviews from 1961. He considered it one of the greatest honours of his career when he joined the Punch table in 1978.
Ffolkes was also a prolific book illustrator, collaborating on over 50 books, including his own works, ffolkes Fauna (1977) and ffolkes’ Cartoon Companion to Classical Mythology (1978). An exhibition of his cinema caricatures was held at the National Film Theatre, London in 1982, and his autobiography was published in 1985 to coincide with further exhibitions at the Palace Theatre and Royal Festival Hall. Ffolkes’ work continued to appear in numerous publications throughout his career, such as Country Fair, The Spectator, Private Eye, The New Yorker and Reader’s Digest. He died in London on 18 October 1988.