(The illustrator) Richard Pitt Kennedy … worked as a publisher’s apprentice at the Hogarth Press under Virginia and Leonard Woolf. He was a prolific illustrator and from what I can see, these illustrations for Sutcliff, which look like crayon on textured board are somewhat unusual for a man whose main illustration work was done in pen and ink wash. He was a great admirer of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, one of the founders of the Vorticist movement; there is little sign of that in these images. But he was prolific and clearly, someone who illustrates such a quantity of material is going to demonstrate a certain variety over time.
Mabel George was central to the children’s books division at Oxford University Press when Rosemary Sutcliff was published by OUP.
A printer’s daughter, she joined OUP in 1946 as a production assistant. From 1948-56 she was was production manager. She took over the whole department in 1956.
From then to her retirement in 1974 she developed an astonishing array of artists and writers.She discovered a cockney gasman, Charles Keeping; a Hungarian refugee, Victor Ambrus; Bridget Riley’s ex-assistant, Fiona French – and Brian Wildsmith. Mabel saw his potential when he first arrived with some abstract paintings. She set him to work on black and white illustrations first and then turned him loose in full colour on the Arabian Nights. To this day he remembers the review in the TLS (Times Literary Supplement): ‘We now descend to the lowest depths with Brian Wildsmith’s…pointless scribbles which do duty for drawings wander aimlessly about the page.’
‘Take no notice, Brian,’ said Mabel. ‘We make up our own minds here. We’re now going to do an ABC.’ This he did, won the Kate Greenaway Medal, and changed the face of picture books.
A new post on Twitter by the ‘husband of an artist’, set me thinking about Rosemary Sutcliff’s life as an artist. She started out as a painter, trained at Bideford Art School. Her miniatures were exhibited, including at the Royal Academy.
Sadly, I do not know where most of them are. This I found in the records of an auction site.
She was a member of the Royal Society of Miniaturists, but they have none of her pictures. They do have pictures by Edwin Morgan, who she studied with.
Her start as a painter influenced her writing: she once said she found she needed to work on a bigger canvas—hence novels, but she retained a painter’s eye for detail and creating a picture in the reader’s eye. She also took a great interest in the illustrators of her books , such as Charles Keeping.
Listed here is every title by Rosemary Sutcliff, the author and writer of historical fiction and children’s books. (Regular followers—and other visitors—you may like to check that this accords with your understanding. All comments about inaccuracies and additions are very welcome, below)
The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), illustrated by C. Walter Hodges
The Silver Branch (1957), illustrated by Charles Keeping
The Lantern Bearers (1959), illustrated by Charles Keeping
The Capricorn Bracelet (1973), illustrated by Charles Keeping
Three Legions (1980), omnibus edition containing the first three books Read More »