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Richard Arthur (Dick) Ovenden (1897–1972)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Richard Arthur (Dick) Ovenden, (1897-1972) landscape artist, cartoonist, librarian and socialist

Birth: 7 October 1897 in South Melbourne, Victoria, son of native-born parents George Thomas Ovenden (1867-1953), miner, later tramway employee, and Elizabeth Mary, née Dyson (1869-1949). Marriage: 6 May 1924 in the Registrar’s Office, Melbourne to Nellie Daley (1892-1988), who was born in Mount Gambier, South Australia. They had two daughters and one son. Death: 29 September 1972 in Box Hill, Melbourne.

  • Was a nephew of the artist Bill Dyson.
  • Brought up in South Melbourne. From schooldays he was a friend of Albert Monk, who later became chairman of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
  • In World War I he was an organiser of Labor Women’s anti-conscription meetings. Member of the Victorian Socialist Party.
  • In 1919-1924 he was employed as an optical mechanic. In 1925 electoral roll described himself as an artist.
  • Worked from the early 1920s to 1949 as a cartoonist for Labor Call (Melbourne). According to June Senyard, he also contributed to Labor Call as “Nevo” in the 1930s. He was well known round the Trades Hall; many banners he painted were carried in Labor Day parades.
  • Provided cartoons for the Australasian Seamen’s Journal (Melbourne Trades Hall) edited by Tom Walsh, in the 1920s, and caricatures for Triad (Sydney). In addition, he illustrated several books. Was also a Bulletin (Sydney) artist.
  • In 1931 he completed what was claimed to be the “first talkie cartoon made in Australia” for Australian Sound Films, Melbourne.
  • From 1955 to 1964 he was librarian at the Herald and Weekly Times, Melbourne.
  • Among exhibitions of his paintings were those held by the Park Galleries, Melbourne, in 1944, Tye’s galleries, Melbourne, in 1950 and 1951 and at the Athenaeum Art Gallery, Melbourne, in December 1954 and November 1965.
  • Prominent in forming the Fellowship of Australian Artists and was manager of the “Aboriginal Art show at the Athenaeum gallery” in 1954.
  • Cause of death: coronary occlusion and pneumonia.
  • Ovenden is represented in the Mitchell Library’s Bulletin collection by one original cartoon of 1922 and 81 caricatures 1922-33, including R. C. W. Bunny, William Coleman, scenic artist, Colin Colahan and John Longstaff. Several pieces of his work are held in the National Library of Australia.

Design & Art Australia online -; June Senyard, Labor in cartoons: cartoons of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria 1891-1990, (South Yarra, 1991); anti-conscription meetings, Labor Call (Melbourne), 28 February 1918 p 10:; first talkie cartoon: Everyones (Sydney), 8 July 1931, p 7:; animated cartoon, Bulletin 3 June 1931, p 17:; friend of Albert Monk, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 19 September 1951, p 2:; obituary, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 November 1972, p 20.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Ovenden, Richard Arthur (Dick) (1897–1972)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 May 2024.

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