The Fabulous Art of Phil May

November 1, 2012

Phil May self portrait

Philip William May was a greatly admired English illustrator and caricature artist of the late 19th Century. His work appeared in some of the most widly circulated newspapers and magazines of the time, such as The Century, Punch, and Pall Mall.

Unfortunately, he died at an early age (39 in 1903 of tuberculosis,) and as those publications left the stands his work and wit soon faded from public view.

I love the simple quick lines he uses, but what I admire the most are the poses and expressions he uses to create these poignant characters. Here’s hoping that he re-emerges as a respected artist who so perfectly captured his generation.



  1. When I go to art exhibitions I always like to look at the artists’ drawings and particularly their sketchbooks first – for me all artists should be competent at drawing (especially the figure) before they move on to other techniques. With regards cartoonists as in the example of May above – their brilliance is obvious (and not always appreciated compared to painters). Thank you for highlighting the work. KN

    • I’ve read that Ingres did not want to show his drawings to patrons of his finished paintings for fear that they might prefer them instead.

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