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Another lovely evening online pub meeting last night. We kicked off with a short presentation by Joanna Moncrieff on Charles William Alcock – The Forgotten Father of English Sport. A wonderful story about a remarkable man whom few have even heard of.  Thanks, Jo!

Following from our last post, the topic for yesterday evening’s lockdown online pub meet-up was favourite London historic images. These could be paintings, illustrations, cartoons and even maps. Here I copy-paste from our Chat panel and today’s emails from participants and my own recollection. Apologies for any errors or omissions.

I’ll kick of with my choice which was William Hogarth’s engraving of the South Sea Bubble, 1720, the 300th anniversary of which is this year. The artist was about 23 at the time of the crash and made this engraving just a year later, a very early example of his satirical work. I’ll be writing a whole post on the bubble later.

500William_Hogarth_-_The_South_Sea_Scheme

One of our members chose another of my absolute Hogarth favourites. the March of the Guards to Finchley (1750), which lives at the Foundling Museum.

William_Hogarth_guards

Other choices:

The Lord Mayor’s Show by Logsdail, in the Guildhall Art Gallery
500logsdail
Madness – Anybody for Tea, Vicar and Topolski
A street in Bermondsey with cottages
The Gipkyn diptych of Old St Paul’s (Society of Antiquaries), below
The Dust Heap at Kings Cross (Wellcome Institute), below

margaret 01

margaret 02

(thanks, Margaret!)

Anne Ramon chose Bury St Edmund by Sybil Andrews a linocut 1930s Dulwich Picture Gallery
Paul Blake: Work by Ford Madox Brown
Daniella King: Bus Stop by Doreen Fletcher

Diana Swinfield’s Group: “St Pancras Station (Rob Smith), Pisarro’s Lordship Lane Station (Diana), Demolition of Old London Bridge (Jen P) Blackfriars Bridge (Tina), Merrion’s 1638 Panorama (Doug H).

Stephen Coates chipped in with the only known map/illustration of a temporary bridge at Vauxhall from the very early 20C. It’s from the Museum of London.

aerial view of temporary bridge

Marilyn Green: ‘Constable Branch Hill Pond 1828 in the V&A ( and sketch from 1819).
2006AR0987

Diane Burstein nominated The Arrival of the Jarrow Marchers in London, Viewed from an Interior by Thomas Cantrell Dugdale from the Geffrye Museum which is pointedly political, showing a very well-heeled man and woman observing the unemployed, hungry marchers from the comfort of a town house window.
Dugdale, Thomas Cantrell, 1880-1952; The Arrival of the Jarrow Marchers in London, Viewed from an Interior

Tina Baxter nominated a remarkable painting from the Guildhall Art Gallery: Blackfriars Bridge & St Paul’s London by Anthony Lowe b 1957
blackfriars bridge

Probably my favourite of the evening was nominated by Claire Randall: The Royal George at Deptford Showing the Launch of The Cambridge, (1757), by John Cleverley the Elder from the National Maritime Museum. It’s gorgeous and when everything is open again I shall seek it out.
500px-John_Cleveley_the_Elder,_The_Royal_George_at_Deptford_Showing_the_Launch_of_The_Cambridge_(1757)

Another very lively and fascinating session. My thanks to all who attended, spoke, contributed and sent feedback. Apologies if I forgot stuff.

Special salaams to Dave Brown, our Zoom admin, or in this context, Landlord!


Our next online pub meet-up is Wednesday 3 June at 6.30 pm. The break-out discussion topic will be name three historical Londoners you’d invite to dinner (or dine out with). Our introductory speaker will be LH Member Peter Kennedy on Thames foreshore bomb damage during World War 2.

 

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At least two leading illustrators of Punch magazine in the mid-20th Century were warriors of World War I. Kenneth Bird (“Fougasse”) was seriously wounded in Gallipoli and went on to be the first cartoonist to edit Punch. And EH Shepard, OBE, MC (1879 – 1976), who saw extraordinary action in three theatres on the Western Front before serving in Italy.

Most of us know EH Shepard as the illustrator who gave us the Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet we all know so well, not to mention Ratty, Toad et al in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. After the war and for over 30 years afterwards, he provided cartoons and illustrations for Punch and other popular publications.

But during the war itself, during those long boring lulls between short outbreaks of terror, blood and death that soldiers know so well, he produced hundreds of sketches in pencil and ink as well as watercolours.

Shepard was born in London in 1879. In 1915, he signed up at a relatively advanced age of 35. He joined 105 battery Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA), with whom he remained for the whole confict. Extraordinarily, he saw action at the Somme, Arras and Ypres (Passchendaele), virtually unscathed. In fact, he unwittingly gained a reputation for being lucky to the extent that superstitious comrades began to stick close to him. This is all the more extraordinary given that he did spells as a forward observation officer (FOO) whose survival time typically was measured at under an hour. This was in stark contrast to his brother who was killed quickly and early in the Somme campaign. At the war’s end 105 battery was fighting in Italy. By this time Shepard had been promoted to major.

EH Shepard

The Testing of a Patriot, 1915. Reproduced with permission of Punch Ltd.

To commemorate the centenary of EH Shepard’s joining the Great War, the House of Illustration has an exhibition of his wartime output. Amazingly, through much of the campaign he continued to do commercial work, particularly for Punch. And it’s hard to know what to think when he got a letter on the front via his wife, from his agent urging him to maintain his output! The show features a lot of correspondence, mainly between husband and wife, which reminds us of the staggeringly efficient postal service to and from the troops and also reminds us how close was the Western Front to London geographically.

No.2 Gun in Action, September 1917 © EH Shepard + IWM.

No.2 Gun in Action, September 1917 © EH Shepard + IWM.

The show also features other ephemera such as diaries, the artist’s watercolour palatte, bits of uniform etc. But mainly it’s all about the illustration. While most of it was created to amuse – both on the front and in the pages of Punch – some of the illustrations were created for strategic purposes, so we have beautiful wide landscapes with grid markings, for example.

Some of the early Punch work features propagandistic anti-German stereotyping, mostly very funny if taken in context (and possibly even if not). We have examples of caricatures of fellow soldiers, Gunner Jackson refereeing a football match is perfectly done in its simplicity, you feel you know him well. The final room features work by Shepard in the decades after the conflict. He didn’t dwell on it much – proper heroes tend not to – but he was always available to do illustrations for programmes or menus relating to reunions, some of which are featured.

EH Shepard

‘The accusing finger” (with apologies to Gunner Jackson) From the EH Shepard Archive, University of Surrey.

This is a wonderful exhibition which reinforces that which we already know: that EH Shepard was a massively talented illustrator who effortlessly produced work to raise the spirits of those in the most stressful circumstances imaginable, work which shines just as brightly a hundred years on.

EH Shepard: An Illustrator’s War runs until 24 January 2016.

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MacDonald GillMost of us know Eric Gill (1882 – 1940), the renowned typographer and sculptor. Few, however, are familiar with his younger brother, MacDonald “Max” Gill (1884 – 1947), who doesn’t even have a proper entry on Wikipedia and nothing at all in the DNB. Hence the title of this exhibition, which opens today at the Pitzhanger Manor gallery in Ealing.

My first introduction to Max Gill was at last year’s Mind the Map exhibition at the London Transport Museum. I ended up featuring him strongly in my review, as he was unquestionably one of the stars of the show itself. Before and after the First World War, he was on the roster of commercial artists engaged by the Underground’s talented talent-spotter Frank Pick, and it was said that commuters actually missed their trains in order to enjoy Max’s cartoon map of central London: Wonderground. This poster, along with its ink preparatory sketch – plus other Gill items from the LTM collection – feature in this show.

But Underground posters are a tiny fraction of Max Gill’s output and not even particularly representative of his life’s work. A formally-trained architect, Max – like his brother – was a talented typographer and calligrapher, much evidenced here. You will also see his expertise in architectural illustration (naturally) but there are plenty of examples of his work in tapestry design, heraldry, monuments, book covers, invitations, advertisements, large-scale murals. He was unapologetically a commercial artist; a jack of all trades, and yet master of most of them. Compared with Eric’s modernism, Max’s work is highly detailed, drawing much more on the past. But look at his designs for the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Glasgow and you’ll see his deco elements, delivered effortlessly.

If he is remembered for anything, though, it will be his maps. They are exquisite, colourful, funny, playful, large, propagandistic (one of his main clients was the Empire Marketing Board). Visual puns abound. Dozens of examples feature in this exhibition.

MacDonald Gill

Post Office Wireless Stations, 1938.

MacDonald Gill

Tea Revives the World (detail), 1940

Max Gill had been married for twenty years when in the late 1930s his private life became complicated when he fell in love with his god-daughter, the attractive Priscilla Johnston, 26 years his junior. This is Johnston as in Edward Johnston the typographer of London Transport’s typeface, friend of the Gill brothers and mentor of Eric in particular. You see, Priscilla was his daughter. I mention this only because in the show are two letters from 1938 in reaction to this situation breaking cover: one from Johnston to Priscilla, his daughter – forgiving; and one from Eric to Max – the opposite, berating. Both writers, as one might expect, had beautiful handwriting. There is also a rather nice letter, after Max’s death from his first wife Muriel to Priscilla.

These letters are in addition to diaries, notebooks, sketchbooks, Max’s pens, nibs, rulers, T-square, tools of his trade. Even the brass plate from his architecture practice. So Out of the Shadows is a very intimate exhibition as well as being a very complete one.

MacDonald Gill

Notebook: Trains, aged 12, 1896.

MacDonald Gill

Architectural sketch. Wisborough Green, 1935.

MacDonald Gill

Mural of North Atlantic for RMS Queen Mary.

This show is curated by Max Gill’s great-niece, Caroline Walker, alongside Edward Johnston’s grandson Andrew Johnston and Andrew’s wife Angela. The Johnstons provided many of the exhibits and personal memorabilia featured in this show. Caroline has determined to bring the artist’s life and work to a wider audience. A book is in the pipeline, but meantime visit her MacDonald Gill website and sign up to her newsletters which you’ll receive from time to time. There is a good gallery of Max’s work there too on this page.

So. Out of the Shadows. A one-man exhibition of the most charming and breathtaking inter-war commercial art. I shall definitely go again, probably several times. You should too. And it’s free.

The show runs until 2 November. Information here.

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The Dandy Comic: 75 Years of Biff, Bangs and Banana Skins
24 October – 24 December, The Cartoon Museum.

the dandy cartoon museum londonThe 4th December is the 75th Anniversary of DC Thomson of Dundee’s famous comic, The Dandy. The publishers have chosen this moment to bring the curtain down on the print edition and attempt to soldier on manfully online. Once enjoying a circulation in excess of two million, in the early 21st Century sales of this giant of a comic have of late reduced to a trickle. From its earliest days, The Dandy was an almost immediate success. It was considered so important to the public morale, that even in World War 2, the government encouraged continuity as DC Thomson delivered Desperate Dan and colleagues into our homes, albeit in a 12 page fortnightly edition.

I don’t think there’s anything the publishers could have done to halt the decline. There’s nothing much wrong with today’s Dandy. But Just as it and The Beano eclipsed earlier Victorian and Edwardian forms of comic, so too are they are now out of their time when children have a plethora of other compelling diversions to occupy them. Most are electronic and don’t involve reading at all.

So this exhibition is timely. If Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Winker Watson were your weekly companions, you’ll love it. And even – as in my case – if they weren’t (I took Wham!, Smash! and occasionally Pow!), you’ll appreciate the talent of the comic artists and writers who produced this stuff week in and week out. In particular, I love the work of Desperate Dan himself’s creator, Dudley D Watkins (1909 – 1969). He also drew Our Gang and for the newspapers, the wonderful The Broons and Oor Wullie. There are many illustrators here represented, including the crew still working today. But the guiding spirit of the comic was the legendary Albert Barnes, who ran the comic for 45 years – from its inception until his death in 1982. One might suggest that with his passing, the comic’s end was simply a matter of time.

the dandy cartoon museum london

1960s: Korky the Cat does Beatlemania © D C Thomson & Co. Ltd.

the dandy cartoon museum london

Wartime: Desperate Dan makes short work of the Nazis…

the dandy cartoon museum london

… and the following decade watches the Queen’s coronation perched on the hands of Big Ben. © D C Thomson & Co. Ltd.

the dandy cartoon museum london

Even the best efforts of Harry Hill can’t turn the tide in the 21st Century. © D C Thomson & Co. Ltd.

The Dandy harks back to an age when – apart from the long shorts – boys wore the exact same clothes as their dads, right down to the patterned sleeveless pullovers. Post war, pre-Beatles. So, all a bit sad and very nostalgic. This is a lovely show which features artwork of about a hundred cartoon strips dating from the earliest days in the 1930s right through to this century.

Do go.

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Next: trog, aka the wonderful Wally Fawkes 7 January – 10 March 2013

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william heath robinsonToday is the anniversary of the death of William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944), illustrator and cartoonist. Regular readers will know that I love cartoons and cartoonists, so let’s celebrate the man who gave the English language his name as the common expression for overcomplicated contraptions.

W Heath Robinson, as he signed himself, was born in Islington in 1872. His father and brothers were also commercial artists. Trained at the Royal Academy Schools, the young Heath Robinson had planned to become a landscape painter, but the imperative to earn soon side-tracked  him into following his father and siblings into commercial illustration. Long before creating the cartoons which became synonymous with gadgetry, Heath Robinson enjoyed a successful career illustrating children’s stories, magazines and advertisements. He took his influences from many sources, but was particularly enamoured with Japanese woodblock prints, which informed his early style.

william heath robinson

Illustration for Puss in Boots.

william heath robinson

WWI propaganda cartoon: learning the goosestep.

william heath robinson

Testing Golf Drivers.

Heath Robinson was a mild-mannered, dapper introvert who rarely ventured from the capital all his life. In 1908, he and his wife settled in leafy Pinner where they lived for 10 years. The people of Pinner are particularly proud of their talented former resident. There is a blue plaque on his house in Moss Lane, but more importantly, the William Heath Robinson Trust has secured a home for over 500 original illustrations at West House in Pinner Memorial Park. The property is partially restored and hosting exhibitions; fundraising to complete a purpose-built gallery remains ongoing.

Profile on Wikipedia.
William Heath Robinson Trust.
In interesting blog article worth reading.

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Or Victorian. He straddled the border. A few months ago when rooting about for a suitable image to put on our members’ cards, after a few false starts, I came across just the thing. A view of the Thames and Somerset House from the west by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1792 – 1864). Because it featured lots of sky, it enabled me to incorporate London Historians logo without interfering with the image unduly. The picture is listed on the Internet as having been painted in 1817, and you’ll notice the Thames is not yet embanked, something Joseph Bazalgette famously undertook some 50 years later. I think you’ll agree, it’s a fine picture.

thomas hosmer shepherd

Somerset House by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1817

So who was Thomas Hosmer Shepherd? As you can see, his Wikipedia entry is not much more than a stub. Using my new DNB subscription, I turned there, only to find him mentioned just the once and in passing, with relation to his brother, who was seemingly more Important.

And yet there are quite a few examples of his work knocking around the web. I like them very much, both aesthetically and as great references of London’s buildings and streets during the Victorian period. What I have been able to find out is that Shepherd was mainly a watercolourist and that rather than being an exhibiting or commercial painter, he appears to have been commissioned as an architectural illustrator, many of his paintings being turned into engravings for reference books of pretty buildings. You can buy these on places like abebooks.com for up to £1,500 for first editions, or very cheaply for reissues that were printed in the 1970s. So we know that someone was on the Thomas Holmer Shepherd case relatively recently.

So like Erasmus Bond, whom I wrote about recently, Shepherd is undeservedly obscure, in my view. But I suspect we may find out more about him more easily than the mysterious Mr Bond. If you know anything, please do get in touch. Meantime, here are a few more of Shepherd’s lovely pictures.

st james's palace by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd

St James's Palace

westminster abbey

Westminster Abbey

marlborough house by thomas hosmer shepherd

Marlborough House

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