Henry Mayo Bateman was born in New South Wales, Australia, in 1887 to English parents who returned to England when he was two. Phil May, a prominent illustrator for The Graphic, encouraged the prodigious Bateman to train as an artist.
He studied at Westminster School of Art and Goldsmith’s Institute in New Cross, and in the studio of the well-known Flemish art teacher Charles van Havenmaet. Bateman’s first published cartoon appeared in Scraps magazine in 1903 and he was contributing drawings to The Tatler soon after in 1904. It marked the beginning of a relationship that would span three decades, culminating in his “The Man Who” series depicting social gaffes during the 1930s.
Bateman enlisted in the 23rd London Regiment early in the war but, never in the best of health, developed rheumatic fever during training and was rejected as unfit. He spent the war years battling with his anxieties over his inability to “do his bit”.
Yet he still produced excellent wartime work. His first Punch cartoon appeared in 1916. The Bystander, The Sketch and The Tatler all featured his cartoons, a couple of which recalled the emasculating medical examinations Bateman had to endure.
His rapid, quick-fire style and his ability to capture human emotion, from enraged adjutants to whimpering new recruits, struck a chord with soldiers at the front. His pioneering sequential cartoons, showing a variety of escalating scenarios, reflected Bateman’s admission that he “went mad on paper”. In 1918, he was sent to the Front to gather material for his work.
Bateman was the highest paid cartoonist in Britain for some time and was able to retire in his forties. He chose to concentrate on painting. He died in Gozo, Malta on 11 February 1970.