George Stampa (1875-1951)

George Stampa

Written by Stephen White

Occupations: Artist and Cartoonist

Family background

George Loraine Stampa was born in Constantinople on 29 November 1875. His mother Ann, born 1837, was the daughter of the Rev Edward Heelis, rector of Long Marton in Westmorland and his wife Ann (nee Hopes). George’s father, Giorgio Domenico Stampa (1835-1922) had also been born in Constantinople but was sent to England to be educated at Long Marton, under the Rev William Shepherd who ran a school there.  Giorgio’s parents were Antonio and Rosa Stampa, both Italian subjects. Giorgio was later articled to the successful Manchester architect Edward Walters (1808-1872), who designed the Free Trade Hall. He married Ann Heelis (1836-1915) on 20 February 20 1872 at Long Marton, her brother John, the rector of Dufton, conducting the service.  Ann and Giorgio returned to Constantinople where their three sons were born but the turbulent state of affairs in Turkey led to the family moving back to England. On the 1881 census, they are living at Battlebarrow House, Appleby, with Ann Heelis, aged 78, Ann Stampa’s widowed mother. Her son-in- law, George D Stampa is recorded as an architect; both he and Ann, his wife were aged 46.  Their three sons were Lelio aged 7, Arturo aged 6 and George Loraine [originally Giorgio Loraine], aged 5. In 1889 the father and sons became naturalized British citizens, although to the locals Giorgio Domenico must have always seemed an exotic figure.  At home he would sit, smoking his Turkish hookah and wearing a fez, exhibited inside a specially made four-sided glass screen from where he could see and hear and join in the conversation, whilst protected from the chills of their old house and the Westmorland spring, autumn and winter. Giorgio Domenico Stampa, having erected buildings in Constantinople and Cairo from 1859-78, designed the Long Marton Parish Institute, 1893-4.


George Loraine grew up in Westmorland and attended Appleby Grammar School. A keen fisherman, he spent much of his time on the riverbank with his cousin William Heelis (1871-1945).  William was the youngest of eleven siblings, who later took up duties as a solicitor in Hawkshead and married Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) in October 1913. Lelio Stampa was one of the witnesses at their wedding.  Upon their first married Christmas, William took his bride to the family home in Appleby, introducing her to his large family, which included George L. Stampa. George left Appleby Grammar School when he was 11 and attended the Bedford Modern School near London and his childhood sketch books show the work of a gifted artist. In 1892 he went on to study at Heatherley’s School of Art, followed by a five-year scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools. At the age of 19, George Stampa became a full-time illustrator and cartoonist and though he did paint several portraits, his main success was as a humorous draughtsman. From now on London was his home.

Lifetime affection for Westmorland

In youth, George had delighted in the Westmorland countryside, often returning in later life. In 1906 he married Ethel Restall Crowther (1873-1946), the daughter of Clifford Crowther (1845-1925) of Claygate, Surrey and his wife Louisa Restall Taylor (1845-1916), who were living on their own means. George and Ethel had one son, Arthur Loraine (1908-1985) who married Cecile M. Ozanne (1914-1986) and became a sales manager for a film company.  Deemed unfit for military service during World War One, Stampa visited Westmorland in 1917 and spent some time sketching the wounded soldiers in the Red House, an Appleby War Hospital. Travelling north was, he wrote, ‘a welcome respite from very long dark nights with Zeppelins’. In 1922, in his father’s obituary in the Penrith Observer, it was reported that the famous Punch cartoonist’s work had ‘often been sold in Appleby on behalf of charitable objects’. The Penrith Observer of 6 January 1925 noted that George had attended the Appleby Grammar School Old Boys’ reunion.

Professional life as an illustrator

Initially inspired by the work of Phil May (1864-1903), popular in the St Stephen’s Review, Stampa’s art work appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Graphic, Pall Mall Magazine, The Strand Magazine and The Tatler. However, he is principally remembered as a contributor to Punch, providing a staggering 2,500 cartoons to the magazine over the period 1895 to 1951. This included work for the Punch theatre column ‘At the Play’ in which he was succeeded by Ronald Searle (1920-2011).  He was particularly well known for his drawings of London street urchins (collected under the title of Ragamuffins (1916)) and of dogs (collected in his Anthology in Praise of Dogs, (1948)).  This former work was very much in the tradition of Charles Keene (1823-1891) and Phil May. He designed posters for London Transport (London Transport Museum) and illustrated a number of books, most notably Rudyard Kipling’s Supplications of the Black Aberdeen (1929) and Collected Dog Stories (1934).  At least one of his publications, following translation, appeared in Holland.

Stampa competed for Great Britain in the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympics in the category of Painting, Drawing and Watercolour; he submitted two Punch cartoons but was unplaced in the medals. This aspect of the Olympics was discontinued from 1948, as artists were considered to be professionals.  Producing more formal artwork, including Lakeland landscapes, livestock such as Sheep (1891), portraits like The Lady Golfer (Rowley Fine Art sale 2016) and life drawings, he exhibited at both the RA and the Royal Institute of Painters and was a member of the Savage Club, whose members were drawn from the worlds of literature and the fine arts.

Stampa’s genius is summed up in AE Johnson’s foreword to Ragamuffins:

‘One suspects that Mr Stampa is one of those fortunate individuals who have never grown up. Not otherwise could his drawings evince such sympathetic relish of the humours of childhood.   Dr Johnson never got more shrewd enjoyment from a walk down Fleet Street than does Mr Stampa from a stroll through Camden Town or Regent Street.  That an observer so acute should be able to give us, with such humorous restraint, a record of his noticings is a circumstance exceedingly fortunate….the function of true humour is to moderate between comedy and tragedy; to hold the scales between laughter and tears. Also the humorist should be kindly: and to the tolerant good nature of the artist as well as to his keen sense of character, the drawings in this book bear ample testimony’.

Ethel died in 1946 and George died in 1951, The Times of 28 May publishing a short obituary.

David Thomas, editor of Punch writing in 1991, was able to pay Stampa perhaps his greatest compliment:‘And as with all the great Punch cartoonists his best jokes are as funny today as they were when first conceived….I am looking at one now… the drawing could only date from 1921. The joke works as well in 1991. And that, I suggest, is the mark of Stampa’s greatness’.


  • GL Stampa, Loud Laughter, humorous drawings in colour illustrating Easy French Exercises, Cassell, 1907
  • GL Stampa, Ragamuffins; sixty-five drawings, Duckworth, 1916
  • GL Stampa, Humours of the Street, Methuen, 1921
  • GL Stampa, The Windmill Man, 1921
  • GL Stampa, Plays for children,1922
  • GL Stampa, Urbanities, 1923
  • GL Stampa (compiled and illustrated), In Praise of Dogs; an anthology , Muller, 1948
  • Flavia Stampa Gruss (ed), The Last Bohemian: GL Stampa of Punch, Bellew Publishing, 1991
  • Obituary, The Times of 28 May 1951, p.6