Sneak Peek: Simon Grennan’s “Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval”

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval Cover

Trouser-wearing, French-speaking, home-wrecking Victorian cartoonist Marie Duval – best known for her work on Allie Sloper – appears to have drawn a new comic book – ‘Drawing in Drag…’ But has she?

Looking more closely, Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval – which launches next week – is the latest comic book from celebrated artist, writer and cartoonist Simon Grennan, performing as Duval, as though the cartoonist and actress had been revived in the twenty-first century.

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval was commissioned by Book Works in collaboration with Manchester’s Chetham’s Library, as part of Book Works ‘You Must Locate A Fantasy’ library residency scheme, which enables artists and writers to work with libraries, special collections and archives throughout the UK. It’s supported by Arts Council England and the University of Chester.

During the residency, Simon stumbled upon a secret. In the Library is an 1877 novel, The Story of a Honeymoon, written and illustrated by Charles Ross and Ambrose Clarke. For the first time, Grennan identified Clarke as a male pseudonym of one Isabelle de Tessier, better known as Marie Duval.

Known for her slapstick comedic drawing style and one of only a handful of women cartoonists in Victorian periodical publishing, Duval’s work was habitually disguised, emasculated, overwritten and stolen. After her death, her male collaborators took the opportunity to erase her from history. They almost succeeded. Recently, Grennan has been instrumental in bringing Duval’s work back to public view.

In Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval, Grennan adopts ‘Marie Duval’ as a pseudonym, reviving her reckless style to explore, like Duval, the contemporary world of modern urban leisure. The book affectionately delights in sexual ambiguity and identity shifts, exposing social norms and the vicissitudes of entertainment by performing, producing and presenting drawings in drag.

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval - Simon Grennan Sample Art

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval - Simon Grennan Sample Art

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval - Simon Grennan Sample Art

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval - Simon Grennan Sample Art

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval - Simon Grennan Sample Art

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval - Simon Grennan Sample Art

Simon Grennan is an artist, graphic novelist and scholar of visual narrative, recently known for Dispossession, the first graphic adaptation of a novel by Anthony Trollope. He’s also co-author of Marie Duval, with Roger Sabin, a brilliant study of her work published by Myriad Editions, which we enthused about earlier this year. Since 1990, he has been half of international artists team Grennan & Sperandio producer of hundreds of public engagement projects and over forty comics and books.

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval will be launched at Chetham’s Library on Friday 12th October, with Simon Grennan in conversation with Christopher Breward, as part of the preview of exhibition of drawings about the making of the book.

Christopher Breward is an historian of fashion, interested in its relationship to social and sexual identity. He has authored numerous books including: The Suit: Form, Function and Style, Fashioning London and The Hidden Consumer amongst others. He is Director of Collection and Research at the National Galleries of Scotland and Visiting Professor of Cultural History at the University of Edinburgh.

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval Book Launch 6.30pm – 8.00pm Friday 12th October 2018, Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester M3 1SB | Web:

• Simon Grennan is online at | Follow Simon on Twitter @SimonGrennan_

Drawing in Drag: The Exhibition runs at Chetham’s Library from 13th – 19th October 2018

Drawing in Drag by Marie Duval by Simon Grennan
Publisher: Book Works – available to buy here
48 pages,
Designed by Axis Graphic
Design Ltd., Manchester
ISBN 978 1 906012 98 4 – PRICE £14.95

Web Links

• Marie Duval Archive

• The British Newspaper Archive has put 635 issues of Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday on its website 

• Lew Stringer has written a number of articles on Ally Sloper on his Blimey! blog

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