Harry Horse was also one of the outstanding political cartoonists of his generation.
For inspiration, he often turned to his greatest influence - the master 18th-century cartoonist and caricaturist, James Gillray.
From 1987 to 1992, Harry drew for Scotland on Sunday as the paper’s first ever in-house political cartoonist, and his work was admired by the likes of The Guardian's award-winning cartoonist Steve Bell.
He also freelanced for The New Yorker, The Independent, the Observer and The Scotsman and was given the honour of illustrating the front cover for The New Yorker on more than one occasion. Regarded as a “highly provocative, highly talented, highly controversial artist", Harry also became the defining cartoonist voice on the Guardian comment pages.
After his return to Edinburgh in 2001, Harry’s love of lampooning politicians quickly built him a following through his weekly satirical "Horsebox" comic strip published in the Scotsman. Latterly he was the resident political cartoonist at the Sunday Herald where, according to the paper’s Associate Editor Alan Taylor he was considered to be “one of the most talented cartoonists of his generation”. His final cartoon for the Herald, a typically bizarre piece entitled Atlantis Rising, appeared in the paper a week before he died.
Much of his work was driven by his anger at the horrors and injustices of the world but he was also capable of delicate, soft pieces of great beauty. He derived enormous satisfaction from his cartoons because, as he explained, he saw cartoons as the last freedom of expression. Being able to illustrate a wickedness or ugliness with a stroke of a pen, Harry once explained in an interview, was a powerful weapon to use against corrupt politicians and the failings of the monarchy.
In 2009 the Edinburgh-born actor, musician and political activist Tam Dean Burn developed a stage performance called ‘The Year of the Horse’ as a moving tribute to Harry and a “celebration of his gifts”. Although the two never met, Burn considered Harry to be a kindred spirit; a romantic and radical figure with whom he had an enormous affinity.
The work was based on the 52 satirical cartoons published in the Sunday Herald newspaper in the 12 months leading up to Harry’s death and featured huge projections of Harry’s illustrations and his own commentaries - written to go with the cartoons – as well as an original score created by another Horse aficionado, Keith McIvor of Glasgow club Optimo. Performed at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre and then again in Edinburgh, Burn develop ‘The Year of the Horse’ to “demonstrate how – whether it was a puppet Tony Blair dancing to the devil's tune, a post-holocaust cave painting or a sculpture of Wayne Rooney's foot – Horse had a gift of combining political righteousness, visual flare and mordant wit”.