Sir Osbert Lancaster, CBE, was an English cartoonist, architectural historian, stage designer and author. His diverse career, honoured by a knighthood in 1975, was celebrated by an exhibition at the Wallace Collection marking the centenary of his birth. He died at his London home in Chelsea, aged 77, in 1994, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
About Osbert Lancaster in brief
Sir Osbert Lancaster, CBE, was an English cartoonist, architectural historian, stage designer and author. He was known for his cartoons in the British press, and for his lifelong work to inform the general public about good buildings and architectural heritage. His diverse career, honoured by a knighthood in 1975, was celebrated by an exhibition at the Wallace Collection marking the centenary of his birth. Lancaster was born in London in 1908, the only child of Robert Lancaster and his wife, Clare Bracebridge, née Manger. His paternal grandfather, Sir William Lancaster, rose from modest beginnings to become the chief executive of the Prudential Assurance Company. Lancaster’s mother was an artist, known for her paintings of flowers, who had exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy. His father was a publisher, who volunteered for the army on the outbreak of the First World War, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Norfolk Regiment, and was killed at the Battle of Arras in April 1917. In 1951 he was commissioned to create costumes and scenery for a new ballet, Pineapple Poll. Between then and the early 1970s he designed new productions for the Royal Ballet, Glyndebourne, D’Oyly Carte, the Old Vic and the West End. His productivity declined in his later years, when his health began to fail. He died at his London home in Chelsea, aged 77, in 1994, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He is buried at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where he was a keen supporter of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of London.
He also wrote a book on the history of architecture, The Architectural Review, which was published in the mid-1930s. His books have continued to be regarded as important works of reference on the subject. In 1938 Lancaster was invited to contribute topical cartoons to The Daily Express. He introduced the single column-width cartoon popular in the French press but not until then seen in British papers. Between 1939 and his retirement in 1981 he drew about 10,000 of these \”pocket cartoons\”, which made him a nationally known figure. He developed a cast of regular characters, led by his best-known creation, Maudie Littlehampton, through whom he expressed his views on the fashions, fads and political events of the day. He left Charterhouse School, aged 13, and went to Charterhouse, where his father and uncles had all been shocked by the bullying and bad language but in addition to its intellectual tradition’s phily, aesthetic and aesthetic tradition. At Charterhouse he was sent to St Ronan’s preparatory school, Worthing. His education there was, he later commented, of more importance to him than anything he learned later in his school and university career. He later commented that the headmaster, Stanley Harris, was a celebrated amateur footballer and occasional first class cricketer, but he was reasonably tolerant of Lancaster’s disdain for games, and on the whole enjoyed his time at the school.