|Simon Heneage, who died on May 14, 2011, aged 80, was the co-founder in 1988 of the Cartoon Art Trust; in 2006 it achieved its aim of setting up a museum devoted to British cartoon art at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street, London.
A lifelong collector of books and art, with a deep love and understanding of history, Heneage turned his attention to the world of caricatures and cartoons in the early 1980s, building one of the largest collections of comic art in Britain, which was displayed in a gallery at his home in Somerset.
He believed that this country’s formidable pantheon of great cartoonists, from Gillray and Rowlandson in the 18th century, to Matt and Garland today, represented an ideal and entertaining way to describe the social history of these islands.
Simon Anthony Helyar Walker-Heneage was born in Eaton Square, London, on June 16 1930. Educated at Radley, he did his National Service in the Grenadier Guards, with which his father and grandfather had served before him. In 1951 he went up to Cambridge, where he took a degree in History.
Following a distinguished 21-year career in the wine trade, Heneage left to pursue his interest in books and art. He founded Potter Books and the Pendomer Press, which published limited edition monographs on illustrators such as John Nash and Edward Bawden.
In 1989 he approached his friend the cartoonist Mel Calman with the idea of setting up a museum devoted to comic art. Heneage believed strongly that it was time for the genius of Britain’s long tradition of caricature and cartooning to be properly recognised in a way that was fun and accessible to the widest possible audience.
It took another 17 years, and the help of many cartoonists and their political victims, for his dream to be realised. Today the Heneage Cup is presented for Lifetime Achievement at the annual Cartoon Art Trust Awards; recipients have included Ronald Searle, Gerald Scarfe, Norman Thelwell and Raymond Briggs among others.
Heneage compiled, with Mark Bryant, The Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730-1980. His great love, however, was for William Heath Robinson, whose family he befriended. He adored the pictures of solemn people going about their serious business with innocence and optimism in an absurd world.
Heneage amassed a large collection of Heath Robinson’s works, 250 of which he donated to the Cartoon Museum’s collection. In July 2007 the museum recognised Heath Robinson’s work in a much-applauded exhibition, for which Heneage wrote the catalogue, Heath Robinson’s Helpful Solutions. He also donated a substantial number of books to the museum’s library, which is named in his honour.
Simon Heneage’s final years were spent writing a succession of funny and eccentric stories for his grandchildren, which were illustrated either by his beloved Heath Robinson or by members of his family.Daily Telegraph obituary, 30 May 2011
|Simon Heneage (G Social 1943) came to the Old Radleian lunch in June 2009 with a specific mission: he wanted to talk to the librarian about his collection of books, and to discuss whether they would be a suitable gift for the school. A casual conversation, hurried and interrupted as so many conversations are under the pressure of a large and convivial event, and the kind of conversation that can make the heart sink: tact and diplomacy are always essential when a librarian is offered a unspecified number of somewhat elderly, possibly moth-eaten, books – which is a scenario that comes up fairly regularly.
In August, a trip down to Somerset, and tact and diplomacy can take a running jump: this is a barn, a beautiful, grade 2-listed stone barn, whose walls are lined with shelves filled with the book collection, and above them, prints and originals – in this section Heath-Robinson’s original drawings of his take on World War 1’s new technologies; over there, framed caricatures, both French and English, covering both sides of the Napoleonic Wars; down in this corner, Hoffnung, Giles, Pont, Sempré, the complete collection from The New Yorker … and rarer gems of European cartooning like Simplicissimus from Germany in 1908, or the Dutch artist Raemaekers’ work on the Great War … and ephemera, such as Rex Whistler’s bread-and-butter work in advertisements for The Tatler in the 1930s. For this is no minor collection of books. Elderly, yes, if you consider some of the earliest editions of Hogarth and Rawlinson ‘elderly’. ‘Moth-eaten’ – hardly, when the whole collection has been amassed with such meticulous, scholarly care and enthusiasm for their subject. For this collection amounts to the most complete and authoritative ever created on the subject of cartoon and caricature, and is of national importance.
We discuss the best way forward. Simon Heneage is a co-founder, with the cartoonist Mel Calman, of the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Square. Many of the originals have already gone to the Museum. Other items, such as the Heath-Robinson drawings, should be kept by the family. Sadly, no other major art institution specialises in the art of cartoons and is willing to take the collection as a whole. So this is where Radley comes in: to become the beneficiary of a unique gift. Because Radley was where it all began for Simon – as a boy whiling away time in the school library in the 1940s, he began a life-long love of caricature with the school’s complete collection of 19th century Punch. And he wanted to inspire others to the same passion. Clare Sargent, The Radleian 2010