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Saturday, October 06, 2018

Balliol Salmon

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Balliol Salmon is best-known today for being the illustrator of seven of Angela Brazil’s early girls’ school stories. In his day, however, he was a highly-regarded artist and illustrator particularly noted for his work for The Pall Mall Magazine, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and, most importantly, The Graphic. He was respected enough to warrant inclusion in Percy V. Bradshaw’s The Art of the Illustrator, published by the Press Art School in 1918, a portfolio of 20 essays on artists and illustrators complete with a series of illustrations showing the development of a single picture.

Salmon was born in Manchester on 1 June 1868, and christened Arthur John Balliol Salmon. (Some sources erroneously give his initials as “J.M.”) His father, Henry Curwen Salmon, was a civil engineer (and not a surgeon and barrister as some sources suggest) born in London in 1829. He had quite a chequered past, originally studying law, but after apparently successfully investing in the mining industry he moved to Devon, where he became a geological surveyor, mining agent, speculator in mining shares, and writer. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society and a Fellow of the Chemical Society. However, he was declared bankrupt in 1858, and spent some time in a debtors prison. Two years after his discharge from bankruptcy, he founded and edited The Mining and Smelting Magazine, which survived for three years.

He had married Ellen Jane Fennell in St. Pancras in 1857, and Arthur John Balliol was the fourth of their six children. At the time of the 1871 census the family was living at 49 Adelaide Street, Southport, Lancashire. Henry died on 27 May 1873, and his widow subsequently moved to London – in 1881, she was working as a copyist and living with four of her children at 10 Colchester Terrace, Islington.

Balliol Salmon was initially taught by a private tutor, but his interest in art was such that, in 1882, aged 14, he enrolled at the Camden School of Art in Camden Road, Camden. He quickly became so proficient that, at the school’s request, he began spending half his time teaching, and by the age of 16 he was taking four large classes, many of the students being old enough to be his father. He then moved to the West London School of Art in Great Titchfield Street, Westminster, where he qualified as an Art Teacher. But instead of becoming a teacher he joined the British Museum, with the aim of producing the kind of drawings which would enable him to enter the Royal Academy Schools. Having subsequently been rejected, he entered the Westminster School of Art in Tufton Street, Westminster, where he was taught by Frederick Brown. After a year, he and a few fellow-students spent six months studying in Paris, including at the Académie Julian.

At the time of the 1891 census he was living at 4 Bloomsbury Place, Bloomsbury, described as an “Artist Portrait Painter.” He was living with his widowed mother and three of his siblings, along with four servants, suggesting a degree of financial comfort.

Despite the advice of his art teachers to take up portraiture, Salmon decided on a career in illustration. His first commission, in 1893, came from Charles Morley, the editor of The Pall Mall Budget. After Lewis Hind was appointed editor, Salmon was offered a post on the staff, where he specialized in news illustrations in wash and pen and ink. In 1895 he began working for The Pall Mall Magazine, again providing news illustrations and contributing for the following 18 years. He also occasionally worked for Cassell’s Family Magazine. In 1898 he was invited to contribute to The Graphic, and he went on to work there for the following 25 years or so.

In 1897 he illustrated his first books, two overseas adventure stories by Charles Hannan and Herbert Hayens, published by Jarrold & Sons and Thomas Nelson & Sons respectively. A year later he illustrated a girls’ school story, The Girls of St. Bede’s, written by Geraldine Mockler. His schoolgirls were, perhaps, prototypes of what became a Salmon trademark – “the Young Lady of Fifteen.”  Percy Bradshaw noted that:
No other illustrator has drawn such subjects quite in the Balliol Salmon way. Strangely few illustrators have dealt with his “young girl” types at all. His well-groomed youths, and girls of all ages from ten to twenty, have been exceeding pleasant to encounter, and very attractive reminders that all girls in their “teens” are not “Flappers and that that their attendant swains are not necessarily sportsmen, impossibly beautiful heroes, or “Knuts.”
While most of his work was signed “Balliol Salmon,” he signed some of his early illustrations “A J B Salmon.”

By 1901 Salmon and his mother, now working as a copyist at the British Museum, had moved to 56 Bloomsbury Street, Bloomsbury. He had, a year or so previously, began contributing to a number of other periodicals, including The Sphere, The Quiver, The New Budget and The Illustrated London News. In the years up to 1910 he also contributed to Cassell’s Magazine, The London Magazine, Pearson’s Magazine, The Windsor Magazine, The Strand Magazine and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

He finally moved out of his mother’s home in around 1903, settling at 48 Grove End Road, Marylebone, whilst working out of a studio at 21 Euston Square and then at 6 Gainsbourough Road, Chiswick.  On 1 June 1909, at St. Leonard’s Parish Church in Hastings, he married Dorothy Elizabeth Rodham, born in South Norwood, Surrey, in 1884, and the daughter of Edward Walter Rodham, a bank manager, and his wife Annie Sarah. They moved to 45 Fairfax Road, Bedford Park, and went on to have two children: Geoffrey Curwen, born on 20 March 1910, and Christopher Russell, born on 19 April 1915, by which time Salmon and his wife had moved to 3 Bath Road, Bedford Park, where they remained until 1926.

Between 1911 and 1916 he worked for a few more periodicals – The Bystander, The Lady’s Pictorial, The Woman at Home and The Queen, while continuing to contribute to The Pall Mall Magazine, The Graphic, The Illustrated London News, The Windsor Magazine and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. For The Graphic he specialized in society subjects, weddings, the Royal family etc., and for The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News he focused largely on theatrical drawings.

He had also illustrated a handful of books for Constable & Co., including a 1909 re-issue of Robert Chambers’s collection of supernatural stories The King in Yellow, first published in 1895, and in 1915 he illustrated the first of seven of Angela Brazil’s girls’ school stories for Blackie & Son. (At around the same time, he began the providing the coloured illustrations for dustwrappers for some early reprints of Brazil’s novels).

His work dramatically tailed-off after the First World War. He did a few illustrations for Cassell’s Magazine of Fiction and The New Magazine, and, in the early 1930s, Miss Modern, while continuing to work for The Graphic (until 1924) and The London Magazine. His last book illustrations seem to have been in 1922. He also did some advertising work in the 1920s, for example posters for Crossley Motors Ltd.

In 1926, he moved to “Long Cot,” 16 Newton Grove, Acton, and three years later he moved to 9 South Parade, Acton. He apparently continued working, although nothing by him has been traced after 1931. In the 1939 Register he was recorded (and described as an artist) at the Passfield Oak Hotel, Petersfield, Hampshire, presumably on holiday, while his wife was at “Sparks”, Northiam, Sussex, living with her mother.

He died from bronchopneumonia on 3 January 1953 at Northiam, apparently without leaving a will. His wife died on 1 November 1974 at St. Paul’s House, Albany Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, leaving an estate valued at £7,977.  His son Geoffrey Curwen died on 15 March 1984 in Keston, Kent, leaving £66,033. His other son, Christopher Russell, died in Toronto, Canada, in 2005.

As well as popularizing the images of what Bradshaw called “the Young lady of fifteen,” Salmon also pioneered the use of Russian charcoal as a drawing medium. As Bradshaw explained:
Compressed Russian Charcoal… a solid stick of chalk having none of the brittle or fragile characteristics of ordinary “twig” charcoal. It may be applied in broad masses – in which case the whole length of the chalk is used – and subsequently rubbed into the paper in a similar manner to the powdered stumping-chalk of Art Schools, while its point is equally useful for detailed drawing.
Bradshaw also pointed out that “it needs a very special touch, and such physical subtleties as the warmth and dryness of the artist’s hand affect its use.” Salmon used this medium to particularly striking effect in The Graphic, and Simon Houfe, in his Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914, wrote that Salmon “was one of the best pencil and chalk artists to work for the press in the Edwardian period.”


Books illustrated by Balliol Salmon
The Captive of Pekin, or A Swallow’s Wing by Charles Hannan, Jarrold & Sons, 1897
An Emperor’s Doom, or The Patriots of Mexico by Herbet Hayens, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1897
The Girls of St. Bede’s by Geraldine Mockler, Jarrold & Sons, 1898
Sketches in Verse by H.R. Richardson, privately published, 1904 (with other artists)
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, Constable & Co., 1909 (re-issue)
The Professional Aunt by Mary C.E. Wemyss, Constable & Co., 1910
People of Popham by Mary E.C. Wemyss, Constable & Co., 1911
The Little Green Gate by Stella Callaghan, Constable & Co., 1911
A Lost Interest by Mary E.C. Wemyss, Constable & Co., 1912
The Heart of Life by Pierre de Coulevain, trans. by Alys Hallard, Cassell & Co., 1912
Priscilla by Mary E.C. Wemyss, Constable & Co., 1912
Daisy’s Aunt by E.F. Benson, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1912
Conquest by Olive Wadsley, Cassell & Co., 1915
The Jolliest Term on Record by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1915
The Luckiest Girl in the School by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1916
Jim and Wally by Mary Grant Bruce, Ward, Lock & Co., 1916
The Madcap of the School by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1917
For the School Colours by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1918
A Patriotic Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1918
The Head Girl at the Gables by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1919
Songs in Sunshine and Shadow by Marshall Roberts, A.L. Humphreys, 1919 (re-issue)
A Popular Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1920
A Daughter in Revolt by Sidney Gowing, Herbert Jenkins, 1922

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