Hartmut Lahm

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Hartmut Lahm





Birth date


Birth place

Talliun, Estonia View on map Close map

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Death date


Death Place

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia View on map Close map

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Australia by 1929


Artist (painter) | Caricaturist | Cartoonist | Illustrator


Worked: Australia (NSW)




Hartmut Lahm was born in Tallinn, Estonia, the son of a jeweller. In 1929, the family migrated to Australia where his early talents as an artist were encouraged and he enrolled in the Art School at East Sydney Technical College, Darlinghurst. Fellow students christened him “Hotpoint” which was rapidly shortened to “Hottie”. While a student he sold his first cartoon to The Sydney Mail (January 1930 page 58 “The Coogee Shark Fence”).

During the 1930s he took whatever freelance work was offered, contributing to both Smith’s Weekly and the Bulletin. In 1934 he created two comic strips for Fatty Finn’s Weekly, Basso the Bear and Popsy Penguin. When the comic folded in 1935 he went to the country, drawing caricatures in hotel bars at 2/- a time, but as fast as he made a few pounds he would spend it buying drinks for offended customers. In 1937 he returned to Sydney where he began a long association as a general cartoonist with Associated Newspapers, supplying covers, caricatures and cartoons for their various publications.
1937 saw the birth of his best known creation, Snifter, the piddling dog, a back page feature in Man magazine for over 30 years and the subject of special editions published to raise funds for the war effort. He drew many other cartoons for Man, and the comic strip Snowy McGann for the Sunday Sun from 1951–1954. He produced work for Qantas among many other clients during his life as a commercial artist, most of which only survive in the newspapers and magazines of the day. A brief interest in Black & White Photography saw a collection of his photographs published in Australasian Photo Review August 1951.
He also wrote and illustrated the children’s book Paddy Bow Wow, and was the illustratorof others including The Antics of Algy the Ant (Musette Morell), Lets Wander (Kathleen Simpson) and a series of books by George Edwards, including David & Dawn in Fairyland, Under the Southern Cross, and The Search for The Golden Boomerang published in conjunction with a popular children’s serial on radio 2UW (1941-1946).
For years before he became a name in Australian commercial art he rarely had more than 10/- in his pocket but by the 1940s he was considered “one of Australia’s busiest and most original artists” (People Magazine Aug 2 1950)
He married Joan Janetzki in 1941 and they had three sons (David, Jim and Nick). From then until his death he lived in Hunter’s Hill, surrounded by an artistic and what was then considered a bohemian community. Among his many friends were Cyril Pearl, Hal Missingham, Norman Lindsay, Clive Wallis, Bill (Wep) Pidgeon, Paul Beadle, William Dobell, Nora Heysen, Tom Bass and other fellow artists and identities of the day. He was a gourmet, lover of fine wine and a founding member of the Wine and Food Society. He continued to work until the 1970s, when ill health and a change in publishing technology and style saw less demand for his work.
Much of his original artwork was destroyed in ”cartoon bonfires” when newspapers and magazines were taken over and/or ceased publication, but some of Lahm’s original work was rescued and has survived in private and public collections. State Library of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, The National Library, The Cartoon Bunker, Coffs Harbour NSW.
He died in Sydney in 1981.
Biography provided by June Lahm.