Born in Devon on 23 June 1878, George Ernest Studdy was educated at Dulwich College in south-east London. He studied art at evening classes and later spent a term at Frank Calderon’s School of Animal Painting, an experience that would inform his later work.
Before taking up art full-time, he was apprenticed to an engineering firm and worked as a stockbroker’s clerk. His work was first regularly featured in Comic Cuts, leading to more commissions from other Fleet Street editors, including Comyns Beaumont, founder of The Bystander, who encouraged Studdy. He was first published in The Tatler in 1903, illustrating a story about a comic dog by his brother, Hubert. By 1912, Studdy was working for many magazines, including the ILN titles The Tatler, The Bystander, The Graphic, The Illustrated London News and, most frequently, The Sketch. When war broke out, his hopes for enlisting were dashed by an old pitchfork injury that prevented him from marching long distances.
Most of his cartoons during this period concentrate on the home front, and lampoon the civilian experience of war with themes such as the press and labour shortages. He also drew cartoons for Gaumont entitled “Studdy’s War Studies” in which he caricatured, among others, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Studdy was well known by the end of the war but his real breakthrough came in 1922. For some years, he had drawn a comic dog known as the “Studdy Dog”. Sketch readers clamoured for the dog to be named. Editor Bruce Ingram suggested Bonzo, who made his official debut in the 8 November 1922 edition. Bonzo became a superstar and was reproduced in books, postcards and an endless array of merchandise. Studdy could have become a rich man, but for his exceptional generosity to friends and strangers alike. He died of lung cancer in 1948.