Annetta Hoffnung obituary


Annetta Hoffnung, who has died aged 94, was widowed in 1959 when her husband, Gerard, suffered a cerebral haemorrhage aged 34. Annetta wrote after this shocking event that “my children provided a reason for keeping sane”. She was also occupied by the persistent demand for Gerard’s work as an artist, musician, tuba player, humorist, broadcaster and raconteur.

Indeed, the interest was ongoing and she spent the rest of her life overseeing and meticulously caring for all aspects of his creative output.

She believed strongly that Gerard’s work was “a tonic to the nation”, spurred on by the rapturous response to the exhibition of his cartoons, which travelled the world for decades.

She promoted the exhibition for 50 years, republishing the cartoons, lecturing and writing an acclaimed biography of her husband, which was published in 1988. Later she co-produced, with her friend Tom Bergman, the Hoffnung humorous concerts with orchestras around the globe.

The daughter of Harriet (nee Sandfield) and Percy Bennett, Annetta was born into a loving family in Folkestone, Kent, where her father ran an electrical business. At the outbreak of the second world war, he joined the Home Guard. As a schoolgirl, Annetta was evacuated to Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales, and she later served with the Wrens for four years.





Annetta and Gerard Hoffnung 1952.



Annetta and Gerard Hoffnung in 1952

After the war ended, she trained as a Norland nurse, and in 1948 she took a post looking after the daughter of the cartoonist Rowland Emett. She moved on to work abroad for a year but, returning to London on a break, she visited the Emetts for dinner. The other guest was Gerard Hoffnung. The two were captivated with each other, and married in 1952.

Gerard’s output was prolific over the next seven – and final – years of his life. The vast majority of his most famous cartoons were drawn during this time as he worked amid the hustle and bustle of a happy family home, where regular visitors included the composer Malcolm Arnold, guitarist Julian Bream and artist John Minton.

The Hoffnungs became Quakers during this time, and this form of worship remained important to Annetta for the rest of her life. After Gerard’s death, her devotion to his work ensured his gentle and all-pervading comic spirit left a lasting legacy.

In the last 10 years of her life, despite losing her sight and developing Alzheimer’s disease, she continued to display warmth and gentle charm to all who met her.

She was devoted to her children – my brother, Benedict, and me – and her two granddaughters. We all survive her.



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