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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Marquet, Claude Arthur (1869–1920)

by Vane Lindesay

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Claude Arthur Marquet (1869-1920), cartoonist, was born on 8 May 1869 at Moonta, South Australia, son of Charles Frederick Marquet, workman painter of French descent, and his wife Mary, née McArthur. When the family moved to Wallaroo, Claude attended Taplin's Grammar School there. His first job was in the mines but later, as a printer's compositor, he acquired a sound knowledge of newspaper work including process engraving. By the time of his marriage to Ann Jane Donnell on 16 June 1891 at St Mary's Church, Wallaroo, he was a proficient, self-taught black-and-white artist. In 1897 he was appointed cartoonist to the Adelaide weekly magazine, Quiz.

By 1900 Marquet was having work accepted by the Bulletin and in 1902 he left Adelaide for Melbourne. Next year he submitted a cartoon comment on the Victorian rail strike to Tocsin. This radical Labor newspaper was loaded with debts and libels; nevertheless the cartoon was purchased and, as Frank Anstey recorded, 'another, and another, and the last was better than the one before'. During this period, when Marquet also drew for Table Talk and Melbourne Punch, he signed some of his work 'C.M.' or 'QUET'. Other later, shortened signatures were 'Claude' and 'C.A.M.'.

His big opportunity came when he was invited to Sydney as staff cartoonist on the Australian Worker. The first of his Worker cartoons appeared on 25 October 1906 and in the years before his death Marquet was delivering up to four very detailed cartoons each week. He also produced drawings and illustrations, even one comic strip, for various Worker publications such as Vumps, a failed comic paper experiment, and Our Annual.

Marquet drew with pen and ink in the traditional three-dimensional style; unusually, his work reveals no influences from other artists. That he could draw well cannot be questioned, although on occasions his line work appears somewhat hard. His bold style, however, ensured that his work reproduced well at a time when newspaper printing was frequently rough and ready. When the occasion called for it his political cartoons were presented in the fashionable 'Grand Manner' with allegorical figures and symbols representing not only Australia but nations the world over. A Laborite from actual experience, Marquet perpetuated the Australian cartoonists' symbol for capitalism: 'Fat', a paunchy, bloated figure in a top hat. His most memorable cartoon was that drawn with the verse by W. R. Winspear, 'The Blood Vote'; reprinted on a million leaflets it served the 1916 anti-conscription campaign.

On 17 April 1920 Marquet and a companion Harry Palmer were drowned returning to Marquet's Kurnell home from Botany when his sailing boat was caught in a sudden squall. The bodies were never recovered. Marquet was survived by his wife. A memorial volume of his Worker cartoons was published in 1920 together with tributes from his friends Henry Lawson, C. J. Dennis, Mary Gilmore and others, who recorded the artist's enormous popularity, his genial, obliging nature and his loyalty to the working man. The Mitchell Library, Sydney, holds seventy-five of Marquet's original Worker cartoons.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Lindesay, The Inked-In Image (Melb, 1970)
  • M. Mahood, The Loaded Line (Melb, 1973)
  • Australian Worker (Sydney), 19 Aug 1920
  • Heagney papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Vane Lindesay, 'Marquet, Claude Arthur (1869–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 25 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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