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René Bull

René Bull, cartoonist, war artist and illustrator, was born on 11 December 1872 in Dublin of an English father and French mother. He studied engineering in Paris, and was offered a job in the building of the Suez Canal, but turned it down, instead taking drawing lessons from Caran D'Ache.

Returning to Ireland, his earliest cartoons were published in the Weekly Freeman. He moved to London in 1892, drawing for Illustrated Bits, and creating wordless cartoons in the style of Caran D'Ache for Pick-Me-Up from 1893. Around 1895, his work was also printed in Belgium in Le National Illustré.

In 1896 he became a war artist for the Black and White news magazine, and set a record for covering three separate campaigns in ten months: the Afghan war, the Armenian massacres and the Greco-Turkish war, during which he was captured by the Turks and escaped during the second night from Volo. In 1898 he visited India to cover the Tirah campaign and the plague and famine, and Sudan for the Atbara and Omdurman campaigns. He was in South Africa for the Boer War in 1899-1900, covering all the major battles in Natal until the relief of Ladysmith - he escaped the seige on one of the special medical trains - but was severely wounded in 1900 and invalided home.

He settled in England, and drew cartoons, including strip cartoons, for Bystander, Chums, London Opinion, Lika Joko, Sketch (for which he drew cartoons of humorous inventions, predating those of Heath Robinson) and others, and illustrations for a variety of magazines and books, and also designed postcards. He was a member of the London Sketch Club.

He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a lieutenant, before being assigned to the Royal Naval Air Service in 1916. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1917, and transferred to the RAF in 1918, where he reached the rank of Major. He joined the Air Ministry for technical duties in 1940, and died on 13 April 1942.

Bull was influenced by oriental art, as can be seen in his book illustrations for The Arabian Nights and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Books illustrated[]

  • J. de la Fontaine, Fables, 1905
  • J. C. Harris, Uncle Remus, 1906
  • The Arabian Nights, 1912
  • A. E. Johnson, The Russian Ballet, 1913
  • The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1913)
  • P. Merimée, Carmen, 1916
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, 1928


  • Mark Bryant, Dictionary of Twentieth Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists, Ashgate, 2000, pp. 41-42
  • Simon Houfe, The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators, Antique Collectors' Club, 1996

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Wikia: UK Comics