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Alfred James Vincent (1874–1915)

by Vane Lindesay

This article was published:

Alfred James Vincent (1874-1915), cartoonist, was born on 9 February 1874 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of William Thomas Vincent, groom, and his wife Frances, née Wilks. Alf came to notice at the age of 17 with the publication of his drawings and caricatures, Skits: A Memento from the Tasmanian Exhibition, Launceston, 1891-92, and to prominence in 1896 when he was offered a staff position on the Bulletin with the privilege of later acquiring shares worth £3000 in that company.

From his top-floor studio in Collins Street which once belonged to Arthur Streeton, Vincent drew full-page comments on Melbourne affairs, caricatures of public personalities and jocular sketches of life in the slums, on the racecourses, at the theatres and around the streets. His themes—like those of Phil May—were of city life, the high and the low. From an early age, Alf studied the 'leaving-out' technique pioneered by May and acknowledged the influence of his idol. Although derivative, Vincent's pen-drawing style did have individuality, noticeably in his quality of line, composition and figure grouping, together with the evocative suggestion of locale in his backgrounds.

As with all Bulletin staff artists, Vincent was called upon to illustrate short stories and features for its sister magazine, the Lone Hand, and for its book publishing division. With five other Bulletin artists, he illustrated the first edition (1899) of Steele Rudd's On Our Selection, creating the images of Dad and Dave for all succeeding cartoonists. One of Melbourne's best-dressed men, Vincent was a leading light in the affairs of the Savage Club for whose celebrated smoke-nights he illustrated programme covers. He donated a selection of his works for the permanent cartoon display at the club's Bank Place rooms.

Because of his sensitive disposition, Alf Vincent was occasionally something of a trial to his friends who nevertheless accepted him as they found him: at times charming, with his delightful, quiet humour; at others irritating in his melancholy fits of despondency. Speculation about his nervous collapse and tragic suicide on 6 December 1915 at Manly, Sydney, has centred on his work being too imitative of Phil May to have rewarded him with contemporary renown. Survived by his wife Phyllis May, née Potter (d.1916), whom he had married with Anglican rites at St James's Old Cathedral, Melbourne, on 5 April 1913, and by their daughter, Vincent was buried in Manly general cemetery. There are collections of his drawings in the State art galleries in Melbourne and Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • D. M. Dow, Melbourne Savages (Melb, 1947)
  • V. Lindesay, The Inked-In Image (Melb, 1970)
  • Australian Worker, 9 Dec 1915.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Vane Lindesay, 'Vincent, Alfred James (1874–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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