Nom de plume: “Armand”
“Perhaps more than any other art form, the cartoon reflects our personal prejudices as victim.” The Hecklers, 227.
Yanovsky was born in Kirov Rog now the Ukraine in 1911, and came with his family to Winnipeg, November 22, 1913.
He grew up in the labour movement. His parents were both labour activists and were involved in the Winnipeg General Strike which occurred from 15 May to 26 June in 1919. He joined the Young Communist League in Winnipeg and was a life-long member of the Communist Party of Canada.
He began cartooning for various labour-union newspapers in the Winnipeg area in the 1920’s. Although largely self taught he studied briefly under LeMoine FitzGerald, at the Winnipeg School of Art in 1928, moved to Toronto in 1930, continued his studies at The Ontario College of Art in 1933, and at The American Artist’s School in New York 1938-1939.
In 1933, he began editorial cartooning for The Worker a publication of the Canadian communist party. Founded in March 1922, The Worker became a daily with a new name The Daily Clarion on May Day 1936. It was banned in 1939 at the outbreak of World War 2, but reemerged May 1940 to November 1947 as the Daily Tribune then was renamed the Canadian Tribune. Avrom remained with it through its various transformations, but he contributed to other union, ethic and left-leaning publications as well.
He was a member of the left-wing Progressive Arts Club’s and contributed cartoons and articles to its magazine The Masses..Another was an interesting hybrid called New Frontier, the result of a socialist -communist co-operative effort. It was billed as a magazine of “Literature and Social Criticism” and included among its contributors such distinguished Canadian authors as Dorothy Livesay who also edited it and Morley Callaghan.
The first cartoons he did for The Worker were linoleum cuts as a cost cutting measure. He moved on to compositions in brush and crayon. According to Dave Rosen, this early work replied on “… a ready-made gallery of themes and heroes (the workers, the USSR, Stalin) and villains (capitalists, Nazis, CCF “social-fascists”). However, as time passed his views broadened into human rights, anti-imperialism and in the 1950’s to Canadian nationalism, peaceful co-existence and nuclear disarmament.
Outside of editorial cartoons, he designed posters and stage sets and travelled with a theatre group the Labour League Mutual Benefit Society which later morphed into the United Jewish People’s Order. With it he performed skits and gave chalk talks for numerous children, labour and ethnic groups in and around Toronto. The idea for the chalk talks he said came from reading about how J.W. Bengough had done it.
“You have an upright easel on the stage with sheets of newsprint on it and a lecturer’s chalk – one inch thick sticks of charcoal … I prepared in my mind humorous cartoons of political events and I talked about each one. My habit was to combine it with a play on words – puns.” Avrom Yanovsky quoted in “Drawing The Line”.
In 1944 he found work with Bell Features. There he produced a story “Sasha and Masha” which appeared in Commando Comics 13.It was about two young Russian guerillas fighting Nazi. Later he created serial “Major Domo and Jo Jo. This featured an armless Canadian hero and his partner a circus dwarf also underground fighters against Nazis. Two short lived satirical creations “Mr Distracted Attorney” which appeared in Commando Comics, 19, 20, 21, and “Hugh Dunnit” a two part story in Dime Comics 26 & 27, both reveal Avrom’s fondness for puns and his disdain for the wealthy and powerful.
In 1952 he published a folio of lithographs. In 1958, he became editor of the English section of the Yiddish language Canadian Jewish Weekly Vochenblatt. In the 1960’s he was involved with the Canadian Society of Graphic Art founded in 1904 as the Graphic Arts Club. He served as its President for a time. In 1964 he completed a mural on Norman Bethune for the Norman Bethune/Tim Buck Educational Centre on Cecil Street in Toronto. It has since been destroyed.
“Although not well known to the general public in Canada, his work was reproduced in numerous socialist publications throughout the world during the last 40 years.” The Hecklers.
He died in Toronto early in 1979.
An exhibit of his cartoons appeared in the Samuel Zacks J. Gallery in Toronto in 2005.
Article book :
The Canadian Alternative: Cartoonists, Comics, and Graphic Novels. Ed., Dominick Grace & Eric Hoffman.University Press of Mississippi, 2018: “Alternatives Within An Alternative Form.” Writ., Ivan Kocmarek: 3-15.
The Hecklers. Writ. & Ed.., Peter Desbarates & Terry Mosher. McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1979: “Avrom”: 227.
Heroes of the Home Front” Writ., Ivan Kocmarek. North End Books, 2018: “Yanovski Avrom”: 295-297.
“Drawing The Line: Radical Cartoonists of the Thirties.” Writ., David Rosen. This was a sample chapter for a proposed book on cartoonists who worked partially or completely for alternative publications.
“Avrom Yanovsky.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 17 March 2019. Accessed 15 August 2019.
An early Avrom linocut. “Drawing the Line”: 5. An unpublished essay by David Rosen.
This cartoon refers to Edgar Nelson Rhodes Finance Minister 1932 to 1935 in the R.B. Bennett government . In spite of the Great Depression he increased taxes and reduced spending.
Major Domo & Jo-Jo.” Joke Comics, 23:13.
Notice the newspaper headline. Has Avrom by the end of the war come to distrust both the Americans & Russians? Is it a joke? Is it a combination of both?