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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Raymond Potter

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Raymond Potter had a 20 year career as an illustrator, of both periodicals and children’s books, although his output was surprisingly small.

He was born on 13 January 1860 in Acton, West London. His father, John Potter (born in Guildford in 1829) was a railway clerk; his mother, Elizabeth Maria, née Sharpe (born in Christchurch, Surrey, in 1827) was the daughter of William Sharpe, a stay maker. They had married in the parish church in Christchurch on 27 May 1851, and Raymond was the third of six children, all born between 1853 and 1868. At the time of the 1861 census, the family was living at 5 Percy Villas, Richmond, Surrey; ten years later, they were living at Hanway Cottage, St. Pancras.

It is not known where Raymond Potter received his artistic training (if, indeed, he received any), but by the time of the 1881 census he was described as an “Artist in wood” and living at 50 Chetwynd Road, St. Pancras, living with his parents and his five siblings. However, his earliest known work didn’t appear until nine years later, when he illustrated a reprint of a novel by Annie Webb for the Religious Tract Society. In 1892, he contributed to The Penny Illustrated Paper, The Pictorial World and The Ludgate Monthly, and in 1893 he contributed to The British Workman, The Illustrated London News, The Pall Mall Magazine, The Sketch, Young England, and The English Illustrated Magazine (to which he continued to contribute until 1899). Throughout the rest of the 1890s he contributed to The Band of Hope Review, Pearson’s Weekly, The Windsor Magazine, The Family Friend, Short Stories, The Leisure Hour, The Woman At Home, The Mother’s Companion, The Osborne, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Pearson’s Magazine, and The Royal Magazine, although he was never a regular contributor to any of these publications.

He also illustrated around a dozen children’s books between 1891 and 1900, for publishers such as the Religious Tract Society, the Sunday School Union, Ward, Lock & Co., and C. Arthur Pearson, including at least two titles in Pearson’s Library, a shot-lived series of cheap full-length novels beginning in 1894 – The Adventures of an Ugly Girl by Mrs George Corbett (with Georges Montbard) and Thro’ the Battle Smoke by (with A. Kemp Tebby). He often signed his worked “Ray Potter.”

Between 1896 and 1900 he lived at 20 Southcote Road, Islington and at the time of the 1901 census he was recorded as a boarder at 11 Burghley Road, Kentish Town, London, living with Isaac Bridges, a solicitor’s clerk, and his family, along with hos older brother Arnold, an analytical chemist. He went on to contribute, although again minimally, to periodicals such as The Sunday at Home, The British Weekly, The Quiver, The Boy’s Own Paper and The Child’s Companion, with no further periodical illustrations identified after 1909.

His career as a book illustrator appears to have been similarly curtailed at the same time, although between 1900 and 1908 he illustrated at least 18 mainly children’s books, including two boys’ school stories by J. Harwood Panting and one by H. Escott Inman, and other stories by authors such as Sarah Tytler, Hesba Stretton, Evelyn Everett Green and Agnes Giberne. He also illustrated re-issues of novels by Edward Bulwer Lytton and Anthony Trollope, and a re-issue of Talbot Baines Reed’s The Fifth Form of St. Dominic’s in around 1908. He also illustrated an edition of Anthony Trollope’s Framley Parsonage for Collins, which appears to have been published in around 1920, although this cannot be confirmed.

As his career as an illustrator petered out, he advertised his services as an art tutor in 1907, although how long he did this is not known. Four years later, he was still apparently living a peripatetic life, along with his brother Arnold, both being recorded in the 1911 census as boarders at 119 Constantine Road, Hampstead, with Albert Samuel Baily, a Head Postman. Potter was described as an Illustrator and Artist. He had earlier, between 1903 and 1907, lived at 11 Burghley Road, Camden.

How he earned his living after 1909 is not known. Between 1918 and 1930 he remained at 79 Considine Road, although he was also shown in the Electoral register as having a property at 42 Oakford Road, St. Pancras – this may have been a studio. In 1931 he was living at 18 Argyll Square, where he remained until his death, which occurred on 9 January 1936 at the Ravenswood Nursing Home, Highgate Road, Kentish Town, his death certificate citing “”Chronic Lethargica Encephalitis” (i.e. sleeping sickness) as the cause of death. He left an estate valued at £20,749 (around £1.25 million in today’s terms), suggesting either the remains of a healthy inheritance (unlikely) or a healthy income from his work, even though much of this remains unrecorded. He never married, and probate was granted to his nephew, Gerald Carlyle Potter, a clerk at the Board of Education.

As an illustrator, he could draw with a great deal of vigour, although he was far better at portraying adults than children, whose faces were often wooden and un-lifelike. Some of his drawings were as good as those by the top-rated artists of his era, and it is surprising that he wasn’t better-known and more prolific.


Books Illustrated by Raymond Potter
Pomponia, or The Gospel in Caesar’s Household by Annie Webb, Religious Tract Society, 1890 (re-issue)
Jem’s Struggle for Life by Alice Janvrin, Religious Tract Society, 1891
Glaucia, The Greek Slave by Emma Leslie, Religious Tract Society, 1892
The Outlaws of the Air by George Griffith, Tower Publishing Co., 1895 (with E.S. Hope)
The School’s Honour and Other Stories by Harold Avery, Sunday School Union, 1895 (with other artists)
Guilty Gold: A Romance of Financial Fraud and City Crime by Headon Hill, C. Arthur Pearson, 1896
Chronicles of the Canongate by Walter Scott, Ward, Lock & Co., 1896 (with other artists)
The Vicar of Langthwaite by Lily Watson, James Clarke & Co., 1897
At the Seaside by Flora Klickmann, Ward, Lock & Co., 1897 (with other artists)
Materfamilias by Ada Cambridge, Ward, Lock & Co., 1898
Wanderers: A Story of the Open Road by Sidney Pickering, James Bowden, 1898
Pasquinado by J.S. Fletcher, Ward, Lock & Co., 1898
True as Steel: Stories of Courage and Conflict by various authors, J.F. Shaw & Co., 1900 (with other artists)
The Secret Room: A Story of Tudor Times by L. Pocklington, Religious Tract Society, 1901
The Second Form Master of St. Cyril’s by Escott Inman, “Sunday Circle” Office, 1904
The Boys of Blair House by J. Harwood Panting, “Sunday Circle” Office, 1904
Annie Carr: A Tale of Both Hemispheres by One who was born there, Religious Tract Society, 1904
Mermaidens: A Sea Story by Sarah Tytler, Religious Tract Society, 1904
Mrs Burton’s Best Bedroom, and Other Stores by Hesba Stretton, Religious Tract Society, 1904 (re-issue)
Clive of Clair College by J. Harwood Panting, Frederick Warne & Co., 1905
In Pursuit of a Phantom by Evelyn Everett Green, Leisure Hour Library Office, 1905
Five Little Birdies by Agnes Giberne, Religious Tract Society, 1905
Karl Jansen’s Find by M.E. Ropes, Religious Tract Society, 1905
The Last of the Barons by Edward Bulwer Lytton, Collins, 1905(?) (re-issue)
Aunt Diana by Rosa Nouchette Carey, Leisure Hour Library Office, 1906
The Lost Earldom: A Tale of Scotland’s Reign of Terror by Cyril Grey, Religious Tract Society, 1905
The Wonder Workers by Ellinor Eliott, Religious Tract Society, 1906
The Swiss Family Robinson trans. by Henry Frith, Ward, Lock & Co., 1906(?) (re-issue
Willie and Lucy at the Seaside by Agnes Giberne, Religious Tract Society, 1907
Bob’s Trials and Tests by M.E. Ropes, Religious Tract Society, 1907
The Fifth Form at St. Dominic’s by Talbot Baines Reed, Religious Tract Society, 1908(?) (re-issue)
Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, Collins, 1920(?) (re-issue)

1 comment:

  1. I just came across your history and thank you for the information so well presented. Many years ago I bought an original painting by Mr. Potter entitled Mute Admiration and had attempted to research the artist. Finally, I discovered his history in August of 2017. Keep up the good work, there surely is another out there in need of your expertise and an artist in need of a champion memorializing their name.