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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Men Who Drew For Boys (And Girls)

Regular readers at Bear Alley will have no need of introductions when it comes to Robert J. Kirkpatrick's astonishingly detailed essays about long-forgotten artists. As the host of many of them, I'm unashamedly biased when it comes to his latest book, which has the kind of title that tries to explain the raison d'etre behind the contents, but which you might not be able to take in in a single glance.

The Men Who Drew For Boys (And Girls): 101 Forgotten Illustrators of Children's Books 1844-1970 (phew!) runs to 544 pages, the B5 format (176 x 250 mm) larger than the more common trade paperback size by about an inch in both width and height. I wouldn't want to guess at the total wordage, as each essay is accompanied by an extensive bibliography of books illustrated, but there are plenty of pictures to break up the text and the breadth of the page allows for a nice font size, making reading easier on the eye.

With 101 artists biographies contained in its pages, I'm not about to list them all. In this instance I'm fortunate enough to be able to say, that a scroll down the pages of Bear Alley will turn up plenty of examples. However, it is important to note that many of the essays have been tweaked since their original appearance, with additional information and lengthier bibliographies. Some appeared elsewhere (e.g. Archibald Webb, the two John Campbells), and will be new to readers here.

The subtitle implies that these are forgotten artists, although that is not true of all 101 – C.E. and H.M. Brock, William illustrator Thomas Henry and war and western artist Stanley L. Wood, to take just a few examples. In some instances, you may not recognise the name, but you will know some of their work, e.g. Savile Lumley, the artist of the famous 'Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?' poster. The bulk, however, will only be recognised by ardent collectors of old boys' and girls' books.

The artists are listed in alphabetical order, but range in era from John Absolon, whose career began in the 1840s, to Jennings illustrator D. L. Mays, whose last appearance was in 1970. During the intervening 130 years, there are a wealth of stories, some of artists who worked steadily and successfully for decades before retiring (Paul Hardy even received a civil pension), others featuring artists who struggled with poverty or serious injury (Harold J. Earnshaw, for instance, who had his arm blown off by a shell during the Great War).

Each essay explores the work of the artist with a wealth of background information, most of it revealed for the first time, and I can recommend the book to anyone with an interest in collectable old boys' (and girls') books and wants to know more about the artists who illustrated them.

The Men Who Drew For Boys (And Girls): 101 Forgotten Illustrators of Children's Books 1844-1970 by Robert J. Kirkpatrick.
Robert J. Kirkpatrick ISBN 978-1796-82098-0, June 2019, 544pp, £25.00. Available via Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to Robert in getting this together - a very valuable resource!