Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Donald Southam Lawrence was born in East Sheen, London, on 17 November 1928, the third child of Herbert and Nellie Lawrence. He was educated at St. Paul’s boarding school in Hammersmith, where he took refuge from academic studies by doing art. After National Service with the Army, he used his gratuity to study at Borough Polytechnic, where he met his wife-to-be, Julia Wilson.
After drawing Westerns for Zip, Swift, Sun and Lion for two years, Lawrence found his niche in historical adventures strips, drawing ‘Olac the Gladiator’ (Tiger), ‘Karl the Viking’ (Lion), ‘Maroc the Mighty’ (Lion) in 1959-65. Memorable as these were, it was in fully painted colour that Lawrence was to find his forte. Colour strips for Lion Annual and Bible Story, including the life of 'Herod the Great' in the latter, led to him being offered ‘The Trigan Empire’, which debuted in the short-lived Ranger in September 1965 before finding a regular home in the educational weekly Look and Learn from June 1966. Lawrence was to draw the strip for 11 years in all.
Although the strip was little known in his native country, Lawrence’s achievements continued to be recognised by his peers, winning the Society of Strip Illustration’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1980. He won multiple awards in Europe, including the prestigious Pantera di Lucca Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.
A heavy smoker, Lawrence was hospitalised with pneumonia and died on 29 December 2003, survived by his second wife and children.
In 1989, the founder of the Don Lawrence Fan Club in Holland, Rob Van Bavel, began publishing collections of Lawrence's work in hardcover. After 10 volumes of The Don Lawrence Collection (in Dutch), he began an ambitious project to reprint some of Lawrence's best strip work in collector's editions in both Dutch and English. Titles published to date include the 12-volume Storm: The Collection, the 12-volume Trigan Empire: The Collection and a 4-volume reprinting of 'Karl the Viking'.
Examples of Lawrence's artwork can be found for sale here.