Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird) (b.1887; d.1965)

54439758fdfd9faa220cc3fde213ffc2A great modern twist on a Fougasse poster with regards to careless mobile talking costs lives (Neil has given me permission to put the original in), and he’s also done another image relating to “Police bugged Muslim MP Sadiq Khan” (and he’s sent me some more, which I shall post at a later date). There’s a a lovely design on noise, which I think is a genuine one.

Fougasse was born on 17 December 1887 in London as Cyril Kenneth Bird. Educated at Farmborough Park School, Hampshire from 1898 to 1902, Cheltenham College 1902 to 1904 and King’ College, London 1904 to 1908 where he studied engineering. He attended art classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic and the School of Photo-Engraving and Lithography in Bolt Court, while at King’s College London. Bird took on the pseudonym ‘Fougasse’ in the first world war, meaning ‘a small land mine which might or might not hit the mark’ in the First World War, as the signature ‘Bird’ was already being used by another Punch artist. The name was deemed appropriate for an ex-Royal Engineer, as he had been until wounded at Gallipoli in 1916. Whilst recuperating he started to draw cartoons which he sent to Punch and other magazines. He was successful but continued to take lessons from Percy V Bradshaw by correspondence. He became a regular contributor to Punch, becoming art editor in 1937, editor in 1949, retiring in 1953. When Fougasse was appointed Editor of Punch, Art and Industry ran a celebration of his work, written by his formed ‘master’, Percy V. Bradshaw. Fougasse described how his humour needed to be rooted in reality to be effective, and the method he had used to attract attention during the war years. Other magazines he contributed to were The Bystander, The Graphic, London Opinion, The Stretch and The Tatler.

fougassehitlerunderthetableHe had designed his first poster for London Transport in 1935. Fougasse had abandoned commercial art-work about three years before war started, which Advertiser’s Weekly viewed as a loss, of ‘one of the most subtle interpreters of the British idiom that it has ever known’. He returned in order to design posters for the war effort. He was described as ‘the most sought-after humorous artist of our time’. By the Second World War he had become ‘an established cartoonist, illustrator and commercial designer. He offered his services free to the government, suggesting that humour was an ideal vehicle for propaganda, and went on to design a wide range of graphic material in aid of the war effort’. He designed ‘visual propaganda of all kinds: books, booklets, pamphlets, press advertisements and even a film strip’, working for ‘practically every Ministry’ and many other groups. Fougasse was personally commissioned to do work for the MOI by Embleton, Edwin. Fougasse received the C.B.E. in 1946. He died in London on 11 June 1965.

Information taken from: All About Posters, ‘Fougasse’,, Accessed 28 August 2003; Darracott, J. and Loftus, B., Second World War Posters, 1981 (1972), pp.30-31; ‘Bird, Cyril Kenneth (C.B.E.)’, Anonymous, Who’s Who in Art, 1948; Bradshaw, P.V., ‘Fougasse of Punch’, Art and Industry, Vol. 46, No. 275, May 1949, pp.180-185; ‘Bird, Cyril Kenneth (Fougasse)’, Poster Database, London Transport Museum, accessed February 2000; ‘Advertising and the British Tradition’, Advertiser’s Weekly, February 22 1940, p.140; ‘The Mighty Fougasse’,Advertiser’s Weekly, February 29 1940, p.168; Caption at Power of the Poster exhibition at the V&A, 1997; Livingston, A, and Livingston, I., Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers, 1992, p.77; Questionnaire submitted by Royall, K. to Embleton, E., Royall, K., ‘Posters of the Second World War: The Fourth Arm of British Defence’, Unpublished M.A., University of Westminster, 1991, p.123.

Featured Image Source (2015): Rennart

By Second World War Posters

Mass Communications Academic, @MMUBS. British Home Front Propaganda posters as researched for a PhD completed 2004. In 1997, unwittingly wrote the first history of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, which she now follows with interest.

6 replies on “Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird) (b.1887; d.1965)”

“Fougasse – Careless Talk Costs Lives
9 September – 21 November 2010
An exhibition of classic war-time poster designs, posters for London Transport and Punch cartoons by Fougasse from the 1920s to the 1960s at the Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH. Hopefully of interest to followers of this site. We will also be doing some talks on Fougasse during October.” Anita O’Brien – 27/08/10

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