Here are a couple of Punch cartoons on the subject of cocktails.

These images are just two of the hundreds that appeared in Punch magazine on the subject of Youth,changing fashions and shifting social mores in the 1920s. Beautifully drawn, strong on detail and seldom actually funny, they probably did more than any other medium to produce a coherent picture of the Bright Young Things for Middle Class England. The tone is reassuring – the young people are amusing and affected but never threatening. In many ways, we still carry this version of the era in our heads.D.J. Taylor’s “Bright Young People” is littered with examples. Whether they were genuinely “illustrative” is questionable but they are exquisitely “of their time” and, I think, quite captivating.

All of the major Punch cartoonists contributed but my favourite is Lewis Baumer (1870-1963). In a long career he was a caricaturist, book illustrator and conventional painter and portraitist. He also produced some striking advertising posters and did some covers for the Tatler. His work for Punch was gathered in a number of collections, the most relevant to this blog being “Bright Young Things” (1928)

Some of his pictures are rather twee (especially his drawings of children) but his style (chic or superficial, take your pick) seems particularly well suited to his twenties’ subject matter. I especially like this one –

Les Papillons a Monte Carlo by Lewis Baumer

As an example of selling a life-style (I think it was intended for use in an advertisement) this works perfectly. What would-be butterfly could fail to be impressed?

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