Skip to main content

Tom Durkin

1853 – 1902

Thomas Coleman Durkin trained at the Williamstown School of Design and started work in Melbourne as an apprentice to an engraver and then a jeweller. His first cartoons appeared in the Williamstown local paper, The Trumpeter, which he also edited. Between 1873 and 1875 he produced ‘Masks and Faces’, a series of 36 caricatures of prominent men (and one woman), for the Weekly Times, which described itself as ‘A journal of literature, sport, agriculture, science and politics’. Durkin subsequently contributed cartoons to numerous other papers and periodicals including Sam Slick in Victoria, Life, Bull-Ant, Queensland Punch, Australian Graphic and the Sydney paper Hayne’s Weekly. A regular contributor to the Bulletin from 1889, he became its Melbourne political cartoonist in 1893, and during the same period worked also for the Melbourne Tatler. Durkin was associated through his work with many of the leading cartoonists of the period such as George Rossi Ashton, Phil May, and Ted, Ambrose and George Dyson (to whom he gave drawing lessons). A profile published in Tatler in May 1898 stated that Durkin’s drawings ‘represent the humours, absurdities, follies, political events and social freaks of Melbourne and Victorian life during the period which they cover, and are evidence more than enough of Mr Durkin’s prolific powers of observation, satire, fun, wit and artistic comment.’

The fourteen works are from the series of 36 ‘Masks and Faces’ caricatures, created by Tom Durkin for the Weekly Times and published fortnightly between September 1873 and April 1875. Eighteen portraits from the series were sold as a set of single prints, and were later also sold individually at sixpence each.

Updated 2018