Denis Santry was born in Cork on 14 May 1879 the son of Denis Santry senior, a carpenter and joiner, and his wife Ellen. He was apprenticed as a cabinet maker, before winning an Armott Scholarship to the Cork Municipal School of Art in 1894. He attended Crawford School of Art in 1895, and in 1896 he was articled to architect James Finbarre McMullen. He won a Cork Exhibition scholarship to the Royal College of Art in South Kensington, London, in 1897-98, where he won the Queen's prize for freehand drawing. He then returned to McMullen's office, where he worked from 1899 until 1901.
Towards the end of 1901 he moved to South Africa on health grounds, settling in Cape Town and setting up a practice as an architect and civil engineer. He exhibited paintings in watercolour and gesso, became a council member of the South African Association of Arts in 1903, and established the South African School of Art and Design. His cartoons appeared under the pseudonym Adam in local newspapers and magazines from 1903, including the South African Review from 1904. Soon afterwards he gave up his architectural practice to concentrate on art. In 1910 he moved Johannesburg to become cartoonist for the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Times. During the First World War his cartoons were reprinted in many other countries, and three book collections were published, including War Cartoons in 1915. His last cartoon was published in the Rand Daily Mail in 1917. His cartoons were drawn in brush and ink, and often parodied political events as scenes from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and other theatrical productions.
He was a pioneer of animated film, and planned to go to America in 1918, but was refused entry for medical reasons. He won competitions to design a war memorial and a bank in Singapore, and set up an influential architectural practice there, designing many public buildings, mosques and churches. He retired to England in 1934, intending to devote himself to sculpture and silverwork, but returned to South Africa, again on health grounds, in 1940. After the war he returned to architectural practice for financial reasons. He died in Durban on 14 April 1960.
- Theo Snoddy, Dictionary of Irish Artists: 20th Century, Merlin Publishing, 2002
- Denis Santry in the Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940