Tony Rafty: Caricaturist and Australian
by Greg Tingle
Rafty is getting prepared to make the trip to
his parents birthplace, Greece, to pay homage
to his remaining relatives from both sides of
this family, while covering the 2004 Olympic Games,
to be held in Athens.
great Australia, Tony Rafty was born in Paddington,
Sydney on the 12th October, 1915, and now resides
at Little Bay in Sydneys eastern suburbs.
got his start drawing caricatures while he caddied
in his native Australia as a teenager, trying
to help his family through the Depression.
can rightfully boast that he is the only artist
in the world to have recorded the Olympians and
sketches of the Olympic Games from 1948 (London)
to 1996 (Atlanta).
is even more noteworthy is the fact that 95% of
his drawings also have their subjects autographs,
making his collection unique and invaluable.
specialises in caricatures of media types, entertainers,
politicians, golfers, boxers, and cricketers,
and has been described by industry experts and
practitioners as without peer, in
terms of the number of drawings and caricatures
autographed, ever assembled in one artists
a few of the notable politicians Tony has drawn
in caricature include William McMahon, Gough Whitlam,
Graham Richardson, Michael Photios and Tom Uren.
Tony has also met and drawn many international
political figures including U.S Presidents, Harold
McMillan and Mrs Indira Ghandi.
Great Entertainers" is another work of art
with the most famous piece being the signed caricature
of The Beatles when they visited Australia in
1964. John, Paul, George and Ringo all signed
the drawing and it is said to be the only one
of its kind in the world. The rest of the
collection includes over 150 signed drawings of
such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis
Jnr., Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole,
Betty Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, Tony Bennett, Danny
Kaye, Paul Robeson and even Mr. Lips himself,
Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones.
surprisingly, Tonys work has been showcased
at art exhibitions around Australia, and he in
currently in negations with Museums and art houses
in Los Angeles.
of the most prestigious exhibitions of Tonys
work, was at the Greek Ambassadors residence
in Canberra, which commemorated the anniversary
of the Battle of Crete.
Rafty has proved his talents over several decades
and has been employed by highly reputed newspapers
in the mainstream press.
the years more than 15.000 of his drawings have
graced the pages of newspapers and magazines,
as well as the walls of exhibition centres around
World War II Tony proved to be a most talented
war artist, and journalist, while serving in the
Australian Army in New Guinea, Borneo and Singapore,
and a few years later he covered the Indonesian
War of Independence. His considerably works
from that era are housed in the National Library
and the Australian War Museum in Canberra.
sketched the surrender of the Japanese in Singapore
and the War Museum in Canberra has over 200 of
his works during this time. He covered the release
of the POWs from prison camps and completed many
sketches of war action including a memorable one
of Lord Mountbatten. He also experienced the Indonesian
War of Independence and befriended President Suekarno
Olympians exhibitions at the Myers Emporium
in Melbourne, (opened by Sir William Dargie) in
1959, three years after the Victorian capital
staged the Olympic Games; at the Canberra National
Press Club, (opened by Sir Robert Menzies) in
1965; the Adelaide Festival in 1966; Vathy (capital
of Ithaca) in 1972; Manila Peninsula Hotel, Philippines
(opened by Ambassador Richard Wollcott) in 1981.
1984 Tony Rafty has one exhibition at Squire House
in Hong Kong while that same year examples of
his court reportage were displayed at the Blaxland
Galleries, in Sydney (and opened by Judge Cross);
in 1987 his works were on show at the Sydney Town
Hall as part of the City of Sydney Festival; in
1989 he exhibited at the David Jones store in
Canberra and in 1993 his Olympians in Caricature
exhibition was mounted at the Sydney Town Hall.
must be noted that in 1981 Tony became the worlds
first caricaturist to have subjects appear on
national stamps for Australian Post. To
jog your memories, gracing that series of stamps
were the caricatures of cricketer Victor Trumper,
billiards champion Walter Lindrum, tennis star
Sir Norman Brooks and jockey Darby Munroe.
Tony also undertook the first day cover designs
of the same for Fleetway in the United States.
content with stamps, Tony forged another milestone
by being the first artist commissioned to provide
courtroom drawings for the Channel Seven News.
His sketches were televised across the country
and he still has a small collection of famous
cartoonist-caricaturist is also proud of the fact
that he is one of the founding members of the
Black and White Artists Club (having served as
President); for 23 years he was on the Board of
Directors of the Sydney Journalists Club (holding
the position of President) and served the Australian
War Correspondents Association. Tony
still leads the Anzac Day march at the head of
the Australian War Correspondents Society.
William Dargie, one of Australias great
artists, winner of a number of Archibald Prizes
and war artist with Rafty in WW11 says, Tony
Rafty is simply splendid. He not only brings an
intellectual quality to his work, but he does
it so well within a social context that he creates
subjects which have a life of their own.
1985 Tony was awarded the Gold Cross of Mount
Athos, one of Greeces highest honours, and
in 1991 Tony was awarded the Order of Australia
Medal for services to the media. Tony acknowledged
that he dedicated the Gold Cross to his parents.
to Mediaman, Tony explained his approach
to his work, I try to notice clothes, shoes,
the way people stand, he said. If
you look at my drawings, I hope to capture the
spirit. A caricature is meant to be exaggerated
to a certain extent, but if its too much,
you lose the likeness. It all has to do with seeing
artistic style flows from life itself, with quick
first impressions committed to paper in bold outlines
and later filled in with detail. I
like to capture a personality when they are talking
and moving about. A persons face doesnt
come alive until they are mobile, talking or laughing.
I like to do two or three drawings at different
angles then leave it until later when I can get
a photograph to remember the small details that
I may have forgotten.
his works could sell for millions around the world,
what are they worth to Tony Rafty?
to be near them and talk to them in the mornings
is great, he says. I remember
little conversations I had with them (the subjects),
and that is whats so special to me.
Rafty is a true national treasure at 88 years
of age and his caricatures trace a course in history.
They will leave a visual image of the famous,
and not so famous, people who came and went over
extraordinary mans ambition to go to Greece
next year will surely be realised, as a man of
such talent and passion wouldnt have it
any other way.
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