C. Walter Hodges who illustrated some of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s early novels, including The Queen Elizabeth Story (1950), The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), and The Shield Ring (1956) died in 2004. I recently came across his obituary in The Independent newspaper. Some sections spoke in particular of his illustration work.
One of the outstanding author-illustrators of his time, C. Walter Hodges was also a leading scholar of the Shakespearean theatre. Hard-working to the point of perfectionism, he had a gentle demeanour and unfailingly sweet temper that brought him universal popularity in addition to well-earned professional respect. Illustrating over a hundred books while also writing a number of them himself, he played an important part in the general renaissance of children’s literature since 1945.
… At the age of 10, he spent all his week’s pocket money on an exercise book composed of cream-laid paper on which he then wrote the first of his many books. Called “Walks in Our Museums”, this unpublished work describes the young Hodges going to sleep in various favourite museums and then finding himself transported to the past. This early love of history that was to stay with him for the rest of his life.
Going on to Goldsmiths’ College of Art in 1925, Hodges was taught by E.J. Sullivan, a well-known illustrator whose fluent line and dramatic use of shading was to make a lasting impression upon his own artwork. Equally fascinated by the stage, he took his first job in 1928 at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead, where he was responsible for both costumes and scenery. Unable, however, to live on a salary of 30 shillings a week, he eventually joined an advertising agency, which he found dull but more lucrative. Still looking for freelance work, he made his artistic breakthrough in 1931 when he received a commission from the Radio Times, an invaluable patron for many young artists. He went on to provide it with over 600 illustrations during the next 40 years.
… After the Second World War Hodges continued with his dual love of illustrating and the stage. In 1951 he was appointed designer to the Mermaid Theatre when it opened in St John’s Wood, with this position renewed when it re-emerged at London’s Puddle Dock eight years later. In 1964 he won the Kate Greenaway Medal for his Shakespeare’s Theatre (1964), a sumptuous book building on what had already become a consuming interest, first evident in his groundbreaking work of speculative scholarship The Globe Restored (1953). For some time closely involved with Sam Wanamaker’s doomed attempt to build a replica of the Globe theatre, Hodges became a valued scholar on the practical problems of trying to understand what exactly Shakespeare’s theatre would have looked like and how this would have affected his plays.
… All this time Hodges was also busy illustrating – his work for other writers including Elizabeth Goodge’s The Little White Horse (1946), William Mayne’s A Swarm in May (1955), Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword (1956) and novels of Rosemary Sutcliff from The Shield Ring (1956) to The Eagle of the Ninth (1970 Note from AL – they had it wrongly dated!) – and sometimes writing as well … …