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Phil Blake (1869-1918)

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1898-11-26 Blake the lesson for the youth of ireland

"The Lesson for the Youth of Ireland", 1898

Philip John Blake was born in Castletown, Navan, County Meath, on 19 January 1869. His father, Philip senior, was a farmer and a Justice of the Peace. In 1897 he designed the programme and scenery for the Players Club's Irish premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Molesworth Hall, Dublin, and the following year he became a regular political cartoonist for the Weekly Freeman, taking over from Thomas Fitzpatrick and often working in an art nouveau style. James Joyce, in a chapter of Ulysses describing the production of the Weekly Freeman, refers to "Phil Blake's weekly Pat and Bull story" - perhaps a regular comic strip or illustrated column? He continued to draw cartoons for the Weekly Freeman until c. 1905, when W. C. Mills took over.

In the meantime, in 1901 he performed a song, "Save Me Not", in Miss Margaret M. Sheehy’s Dramatic and Musical Society performance in the Antient Concert Rooms (the 19-year-old James Joyce performed in a short play on the same bill). He drew advertisements for Dublin businesses, and published a book called Light and Shade: Phil Blake's Xmas Sketch Book 1902. In 1908 he illustrated a controversial novel, The Moneylender by Joseph Edelstein, about Jewish moneylenders in Dublin.

Sometime after that, probably before 1911, he emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where he illustrated fashion catalogues for the Sydney department store Mark Foy's from 1914 to 1916, and founded a commercial art studio, Phil Blake and Co., which designed ornately lettered books of photographs by the pioneering Australian photographer Harry Phillips, including The Cloud, an illustrated edition of the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, published in Katoomba, New South Wales, in 1914. Phil Blake and Co., Commercial Artists, were advertised as based at 545-7 George Street, Sydney, in the Sydney Morning Herald the same year. His death certificate gives his address as 83 Market Street.

He died on 18 July 1918, of an "aneurysm of aortic arch" and "haemorrhage from rupture into left lung", at Sydney Hospital. He was 49, single with no children. He was buried in Rookwood Cemetary, Sydney.

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