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Monday, November 03, 2014

Lawson Wood

When Lawson Wood's name cropped up recently as part of some research I was doing into another artist, I recognised it from variety of annuals, books and magazine illustrations and covers. For instance, back in 2006, when Look & Learn bought up a number of nursery comics to add to its portfolio of titles, I discovered Lawson Wood's pictures had appeared in Playhour and various related annuals, including Playhour Book, Jack & Jill Annual Book and Fun in Toyland.

Wood's wide reputation as a humorous illustrator and commercial artist was down to his astute management. He produced countless humorous images of cute animals for magazine covers and by retaining the copyrights in all his work he was able to re-sell his pictures in Britain and abroad as posters, postcards, calendars and prints.

Wood filled many sketchbooks with illustrations on every subject; he was a regular visitor to London Zoo where he found that monkeys were a particularly deep well he could draw from to satirize human beings and human nature. Thus developed Lawson Wood's most famous character, Gran'pop, who first appeared in The Sketch and later in Laughter, the cartoon supplement to Odhams' Illustrated magazine. The paintings featured an elderly, ginger-coloured ape in numerous scrapes, often accompanied by a gaggle of grandchildren; Gran'pop, even at the grand age of 84, would involve himself in their every activity, from dressing up as Santa to setting up a shoe-shine stall or car-wash.

In America, Gran'pop starred on the cover of Collier's Magazine and in the Netherlands he was the cover star of Panorama magazine. Gran'pop was the subject of a set of 50 cigarette cards issued by Carreras in 1934 as well as featuring in a number of annuals and other books.

Lawson Wood was not only known for Gran'pop. He created a number of popular cartoons featuring comic policemen and a series for Punch of stone age men and dinosaurs. P. V. Bradshaw commented that he had a "breadth, ease and fluency which many an infinitely more serious artist must envy". He worked in pen and ink, pencil, chalk and watercolour. He was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and was a member of the London Sketch Club alongside his close friend Tom Browne, who encouraged him to produce a number of now highly collectable postcards.

Clarence Lawson Wood—he disliked his first given Christian name and soon abandoned it—was born in Highgate, London, on 23 August 1878 into an artistic family. His father was landscape painter and watercolourist Lewis Pinhorn Wood and his grandfather was noted architectural artist and lithographer Lewis John Wood RI. Pinhorn Wood (1848-1918) married Louisa Howard Watson (1848-1917) in Hampstead in 1875 and had four children: Clarence Lawson Wood, Eveline Winifred Wood (1881-1939), Esmond Wood (1883-1917), who was also a landscape painter, and Enid Wood (1887- ).

The family lived at Burnside in the village of Shere, Surrey, before moving to Highgate and then to Homefeld Road, Chiswick. His parents subsequently moved to Pevensey, Sussex, where they died in the latter years of the Great War.

He was almost wholly self-taught as an artist, admitting that his attendance at art school—he went to Slade School of Fine Art, where he studied under Brown and Tonks, and Heatherley's School of Art; he also took a few night classes at Frank Calderon's School of Animal Painting—was only intermittent for barely three years from the age of sixteen.

At the age of eighteen, in 1896, he joined the staff of publisher C. Arthur Pearson, rising rapidly to become chief artist. At Pearson's he was a prolific illustrator for Short Stories, Pearson's Magazine and of books.

He left in 1902 after six years with the company, turning freelance, drawing cartoons and illustrations for Windsor Magazine, Boy's Own Paper, The Graphic (1907-11), The Flag, Punch, The Bystander, Strand Magazine, Nash's, SketchFry's Magazine, Illustrated London News, Puck, Royal Magazine, Printers' Pie and London Opinion.

He exhibited works extensively at Brook Street Art Gallery and Walker's Gallery in the period up to the war; his work was also exhibited at the Royal Academy.

During World War I, as well as producing PRC posters for Dobson Molle, he volunteered as part of the Derby Scheme, joining on 10 December 1915. After training for the Army Service Corps as a cadet at Aldershot he obtained a commission. Soon after, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, and once he had successfully passed his tests he was transferred to Frances where he served for nearly three years at G.H.Q. He had one of the most dangerous jobs of the Great War as a "balloonatic"—"spotting" for the artillery from a balloon. He was decorated by the French for gallantry over Vimy Ridge.

After the war Wood found even wider success as an illustrator as well as working in advertising; he also set up a factory, designing and making wooden toys known as 'The Lawson Woodies', featuring simple figures of birds, animals and humans.

Alongside his artistic talents, Wood was also set up a sanctuary for old animals; in 1934 he was recognised for this work and elected a Fellow of the Zoological Society in 1934.

Wood was married to Charlotte Forge in 1903, and they had three children: Denis Lawson Wood (1906-1990), Phoebe Lawson Wood (1907- ) and Jocelyn Lawson Wood (1910-1930), who died in Australia aged only 20. Phoebe was married to Captain Keith Sholto Douglas MC in 1941 and Douglas and Lawson Wood collaborated as Hustlebuck.

For much of his life Wood lived in Groombridge, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in a medieval manor house that incorporated the wing of a mid-to-late 15th century courtyard house, Unimore Manor, which Wood discovered in Sussex. Under the supervision of architect J. D. Clarke and historian J. E. Ray, Wood had the building dismantled and re-erected in 1912.

Charlotte Wood petitioned for divorce in 1929 and in later life Lawson Wood became something of a recluse. Towards the end of his life he retired to Sidmouth where he died on 26 October 1957, aged 79, after a long illness.


Prehistoric Proverbs. A series of 12 water-colour drawings. London, Collier & Co., 1907?
'Splinters'. London, Duckworth & Co., 1916.
The 'Mr.' Books.
    Mr. Fox: How He Went Hunting. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1916.
    Mr. Grunt: How He Spends His Holidays. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1916.
    Mr. Pickles: How He Got Lost. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1916.
    Mr. Pup and His Escapades. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1916.
    Mr. Quack: His Voyage to London. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1916.
    Mr. Trunk: His Day Out. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1916.
The 'Mrs.' Books.
    Mrs. Bear Goes to the Fair. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    Mrs. Cackle and Her Troublesome Son. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    Mrs. Nibble Finds a New Home. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    Mrs. Polly: Her Visit to the Farm. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    Mrs. Purr: How She Gives a Party. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    Mrs. Waddle: How She Makes a Fortune. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
Rummy Tales:
    The Bunchy-tail and His Pic-nic Tea. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    The Bushy-tail and His Good Fortune. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    The Curly-tail and How He Reached the North Pole. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    The Pig-Tail and How It Was Found. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1922.
    The String-tail: How He Gets to the Lord Mayor's Show. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
    The Strong-tail: And How He Jumped Onto the Moon. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1920.
The Noo-Zoo Tales:
    Uncle Flopple: His Fishing Excursion. London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1922.
    The Woolly-Cuddle Helps the Lost Girl. London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1922.
    The Weejum Takes His Son to the Noah's Ark Zoo. London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1922.
    The Cockarooster and How He Learns to be Good. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1922.
    The Snork and How He Joined the Circus. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1922.
Valentine's Toy Theatre Book:
    Cinderella. Dundee, Valentine & Sons, 1923.
    Jack and the Beanstalk. Dundee, Valentine & Sons, 1923.
Valentine's Book Toys:
    Kind Bob. Dundee, Valentine & Sons, 19--.
    Silly Moo. Dundee, Valentine & Sons, 19--.
The "Lawson Wood" Colour Book Series. 1925-26.
    Billi Butt and the Beano. London, S. W. Partridge & Co., c.1925.
The Scot 'Scotched'. London, George Newnes, 1927.
Lawson Wood's Fun Fair. London, Arundel Prints, 1931.
A Bedtime Picture Book. London, Birn Bros., 1943.
Gran'pop's Book of Fun. London, Birn Bros., 1943.
Meddlesome Monkeys. London, Birn Bros., 1946.
Popular Gran'pop. London, Birn Bros., 1946.
Lawson Wood's Merry Monkeys. London, Birn Brothers, 1946?
Mischief Makers. London, Birn Bros., 1946.
Gran'pop's Annual. London, Dean & Son, 1950.

Illustrated Books
The Red Men of the Dusk by John Finnemore. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1899.
Two Boys in War-time by John Finnemore. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1900.
The Invaders. A story of Britain's peril by Louis Tracy. London, C. Arthur Pearson, 1901.
The Splendid Knight by H. A. Hickson. London, F. V. White & Co., 1905.
The Bow-Wow Book of Dog-Love, Dog-Loyalty, Dog Nonsense and Dog-Limericks by J. C. Kernahan. London, James Nisbet & Co., 1912.
A Basket of Plums verses by R. Waylett, illus. with others. London, Gale & Polden, 1916.
Box of Crackers verses by R. Waylett, illus. with others. London, Gale & Polden, 1916.
Jolly Rhymes, illus. with G. E. Studdy. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1926.
The Old Nursery Rhymes. London, Thomas Nelson, 1933.
The Youngest Reader's Nursery Rhymes. London, Thomas Nelson, 1933.
The Lawson Wood Nursery Rhyme Book. London, Thomas Nelson, 1937.
Old Mother Goose and other rhymes. London, Thomas Nelson, 1940.
Favourite Nursery Rhymes. London, Thomas Nelson, 1940.

Lawson Wood by A. E. Johnson. London, A. & C. Black, 1910.
The Art of the Illustrator by Percy V. Bradshaw. London, 1918.

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