Joseph Morewood Staniforth (better known as J.M. Staniforth) (1864 - 21 December 1921) was a Welsh editorial cartoonist best known for his work in the Western Mail, Evening Express and Sunday weekly the News of the World Staniforth has been described as '...the most important visual commentator on Welsh affairs ever to work in the country.'
Staniforth was born in Gloucester in 1863, the son of a Sheffield tool repairer named Joseph Staniforth. His family moved to Cardiff in South Wales in 1870, and after leaving school at 15, Staniforth trained as a lithographic printer for the Western Mail before becoming an art reviewer. A promising young artist he studied at the Cardiff School of Art, which was run from rooms above the Royal Arcade in the town centre. Among his classmates was the sculptor Goscombe John. Staniforth originally worked primarily in paint, but slowly moved from brush work to inks where he found a talent for cartoons and caricature. He started publishing cartoons in 1889 after being spotted by the Western Mail's editor Henry Lascelles Carr.
Usually published in the Western Mail, Staniforth's drawings and cartoons covered political and social unrest in Wales from 1890 through to the First World War. Although his cartoons followed editorial lines, with editor Carr appearing in several stating his own opinion, Staniforth himself veered more towards the more tolerant Liberal-Labour movement and would attack both capitalist coal owners and the socialist unions.
In 1911 Staniforth was commissioned, by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George to produce a piece of artwork to commemorate the investiture of Prince Edward as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. The artwork, in pencil and watercolour, was kept by Lloyd George who hung it in his study. He was replaced at the Western Mail by Leslie Illingworth upon his death in 1921.
One of Staniforth's more famous creations was 'Dame Wales' (or Mam Cymru), a middle-aged woman dressed in the Welsh national costume, along with Welsh hat, who would embody Wales in a similar way that other cartoonists would use Britannia to symbolise Britain or the British Empire. Staniforth stated in a 1906 interview that he felt that Wales needed a counterpart to John Bull who was used in cartoons to represent England, and after discussions with a colleague, Staniforth created what he believed would be a characteristic Welsh dame. Dame Wales was normally the voice of reason in Staniforth's cartoons and is often pictured attempting to discourage others from making decisions that would damage the country. When a spoken caption was required, Dame Wales would often be depicted talking in a working class valleys vernacular, which stands out against the language used by the more educated figures of authority she challenges. Other cartoonists would later take up the figure of Dame Wales, and would keep the same image in their work.
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