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Subject: ‘Illustrators’

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Two popular English painters of the American West

Posted in America, Art, Artist, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, Illustrators on Thursday, 15 November 2012

This edited article about painters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 785 published on 29th January 1977.

The blanket Indian, picture, image, illustration

The blanket Indian – an illustration for the Boy’s Own Paper by Stanley L Wood

Back in 1879, the Boy’s Own Paper first appeared and at once conquered countless young Victorians. It contained a profusion of articles together with superbly illustrated, rip-roaring tales of high adventure. And always a great favourite among the readers of the Boy’s Own Paper were the tales of adventure in the Wild West of America which were, more often than not, illustrated by Richard Caton Woodville and Stanley L. Wood.

These two artists knew and understood the West better than any other English artists before or since.

‘The cowboy of today is only a very mild specimen of what he was – thanks to civilisation, barb-wire fences, the coming of the sheepmen into his country and the Millionaire Beef Trusts. These have all helped to kill the old-time cowboy, and to turn him into a sort of glorified farmhand.’

So began Stanley L. Wood’s article on ‘The Cowboy – in Fact and Fiction’ dor the Boy’s Own Paper of March 1923. He tells of the reason behind every article of the cowboy’s dress and the harness of his horse – the double-cinch saddle with its big iron leather-covered horn and broad, high cantle and its big, wide stirrups hanging far back on their wide leathers; the great, blunt spurs; the ‘chaps’ or chaparajos; the wide-brimmed, high-crowned hat; the long, yellow oil-skin which the cowboy wore in the rain and which he called his ‘slicker’; the lasso or, as the cowboy always called it, the rope.

It would have been obvious to all the boys reading Wood’s article in 1923 that this man knew what he was talking about. He was talking from personal experience when he wrote:

‘When you ride, eat, smoke and sleep in your blankets beside him – as you watch and take part in his daily work – you find that everything the cowboy wears and everything he uses is just as essential and just as suited to his life and calling as is a fountain pen to a clerk, or a paint brush to an artist.’

The drawings accompanying the article – not to mention the full-colour painting that appeared on the cover – are masterly and worthy of the great Frederic Remington himself.

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Louis Wain was England’s best-loved painter of cats

Posted in Animals, Art, Artist, Historical articles, History, Illustrators on Friday, 2 November 2012

This edited article about Louis Wain originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 777 published on 4th December 1975.

Louis Wain cats, picture, image, illustration

Bathtime for kittens by Louis Wain

At the end of the Victorian era, no child’s Christmas was complete without a Louis Wain Annual. No nursery or bedroom was without at least one of his amusing and beautifully drawn pictures of cats, dressed as people getting up to all sorts of antics. Sadly, the man who gave so much happiness, amusement and happiness to so many children, was not blessed with a happy life.

He was born on August 5, 1860, and was followed by five sisters. He was afflicted with a harelip which made him a shy and withdrawn boy, and his only real pleasure came from drawing and painting. In 1877, he decided to make use of his talent for art to enter college. He was so successful that he became a lecturer at the college – the West London School of Art – in 1881.

Shortly after this, Louis Wain had the pleasure of seeing his work in print for the first time. His drawing was of chaffinches, and appeared in the Christmas number of the “Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.” Unfortunately, an editorial error marred his superbly accurate picture, which appeared captioned as “The Robins’ Breakfast.”

Although the mistake gave Wain a great deal of embarrassment it did not prevent him from doing more work for the journal. In fact, he was so successful that he was able to give up his teaching job in 1882 and join the magazine’s staff as one of their full-time team of artists.

Only one year later, he had his first drawings of cats published.

In 1884, Louis Wain fell in love with Emily Richardson, who had been employed in the Wain household as a governess. His own family were greatly opposed to the match, as Emily was some ten years older than Louis – an extremely unusual situation in Victorian England, when the average husband was four or five years older than the average wife.

Sadly, the happiness of their marriage was to be short-lived. Not long after the wedding. Emily became ill, and finally died childless in 1887. The effects of this tragedy on Louis Wain were almost incalculable. Although he was fast becoming something of a celebrity in the art world, he began to look increasingly inwards. It was as though all of his self-confidence had died with Emily, and his family became the centre of his life.

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Ferdinand Magellan made the first voyage around the world

Posted in America, Discoveries, Exploration, History, Illustrators, Ships, Travel on Sunday, 17 June 2012

This edited article about Ferdinand Magellan originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 731 published on 17 January 1976.

Magellan's fleet, picture, image, illustration

Magellan’s fleet is prepared for the long and difficult journey by Severino Baraldi

One moment, the sea was calm and the sky clear. The next, a violent wind was howling down upon the ships and a waterfall of rain was drumming on to the decks. The terrified crews clung to the saturated ropes and rigging, while the sea convulsed about them. The coast they had been following for the last ten months disappeared from sight as if wiped out by magic. Now all that could be seen were swirling swathes of rain.

Ferdinand Magellan cursed his bad luck. The storm had struck at the worst possible time. It had been difficult enough to maintain discipline and keep his crews sailing on down the unfamiliar coast of South America, probing every small inlet for a passage that might lead from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean.

Every day, there had been superstitious rumblings about the sea monsters and tumbling off the world’s edge and the wrath of God that would strike them dead for venturing where Man had no right to be.

Now, on October 21, 1520, just when his ships had entered a bay which Magellan was convinced contained the long-sought interocean strait, this terrible storm seemed to justify all those fears and fantasies.

Ferdinand Magellan was not the first, nor the last, explorer to find himself in this infuriating situation. Most crews on most ships which discovered the world in the 15th and 16th centuries reacted to their task in a mood of terror and trepidation. It was understandable, for they were accustomed to smoother, shorter, more easily navigable voyages in European waters. By contrast, ocean exploration exposed them to mightier currents, stronger winds, more violent storms and immeasurably greater distances.

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Josiah Wedgwood was a ceramic genius with an international market

Posted in Artist, Arts and Crafts, Famous artists, Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Illustrators, Science on Thursday, 15 March 2012

This edited article about Josiah Wedgwood originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 664 published on 5 October 1974.

Josiah Wedgwood, picture, image, illustration

Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Bentley make six black vases by C L Doughty

Imagine them as frontiersmen, as pioneers, as Empire-builders, these businessmen/inventors of the 18th century, tough men, men with razor sharp minds and so full of ambition that they could overcome every obstacle.

There was Richard Arkwright, the ex-barber who experimented with cotton-spinning machines and invented a “water frame” run by water power. There was Brindley the canal builder, who worked himself to death. And there were other men who helped forge the Industrial Revolution. Of these, Josiah Wedgwood was perhaps the most ambitious of them all and in many ways the most successful, for his name, thanks to his pottery, is still a household word.

And what did Mr Wedgwood aim to do? He once wrote it down like this: “I hope to astonish the world all at once.” And how did he intend to do this? By working night and day to become vase-maker to the universe.

This big thinker and doer was born into a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, in 1730, the youngest of twelve children. He was apprenticed to the family trade from the age of 14 to 19, and by 1759 he was his own master, renting from relations a cottage, two kilns, and workshops and sheds, and, once established, he mixed clays and designed pottery better than any of his workmen. He knew the trade inside out. Soon he was in bigger premises and making history with his cream-coloured earthenware.

Already on the market was expensive plate for the rich, a certain amount of pewter and also porcelain which was too delicate. Wedgwood, by using ground flint and easily-shaped Devon ball clay, then covering the result with a hard lead glaze, revolutionised the pottery trade, for soon his wares were being bought by rich and poor alike for their looks, ease of manufacture which brought the price down, and ability to withstand sudden violent temperature changes.

Yet he was so much more than a master potter. He fought to have roads improved linking the potteries with the rest of the country, and by 1765, when he was married and famous, he became a champion of the new canal-building industry, going, as usual to the top man in the trade, Richard Brindley, then lobbying Parliament to authorise more and better canals. He was a living dynamo.

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Nashional Taste!!! The remodelling of the Prince Regent’s London by John Nash

Posted in Architecture, British Cities, British Towns, Historical articles, History, Illustrators, London, Royalty on Tuesday, 28 February 2012

This edited article about architecture originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 654 published on 27 July 1974.

John Nash, picture, image, illustration

A contemporary caricature of John Nash perched on the spire of All Saints, Langham Place, by George Cruikshank

John Nash was the son of an engineer and millwright, born in London in 1752. After ten years as an architect in the office of Sir Robert Taylor, Nash set up his own business but went bankrupt in 1783.

Soon, however, Nash established himself as a country house architect and from this period there survive several of his houses; at Southgate Grove, Middlesex; Sunbridge Park, Kent, and Cronkhill, Shropshire.

In 1796 he set up in partnership with a landscape gardener called Humphrey Repton in London, and a few years later obtained the patronage of the Prince Regent (later to become George IV).

He began his major work in 1811. This was the development of Regent’s Park and Regent’s Street as a residential area. This Regent’s Park-Regent’s Street scheme is the most important and best preserved of all the building projects carried out at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. The curved, sweeping Regent’s Street linked the Prince Regent’s residence, Carlton House, with the centre of Georgian London and was completed in about 1825. Nash’s plan included the Regent’s canal, churches, shops, arcades as well as the magnificent and charming terraced houses in Regent’s Park itself. Nash also built the circular, porticoed church of All Saints in Langham Place, London.

During the two years between 1813 and 1815 he held the post of deputy surveyor general and by that time had become the Prince Regent’s personal architect. Between 1815 and 1823 Nash extended and altered the Royal Pavilion at Brighton in a flamboyant style which cost the enormous sum of £160,000.

In 1821 Nash was instructed to rebuild Buckingham House as a royal palace regardless of expense but his work there was left uncompleted in 1830 when the king died and Nash himself was dismissed. The great architect died on May 13th, 1835, at Cowes.

Television threatened the survival of the advertising poster

Posted in Art, Artist, Communications, Historical articles, Illustrators, Technology, Trade on Friday, 10 February 2012

This edited article about posters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 637 published on 30 March 1974.

Advertising bill poster, picture, image, illustration

An advertising bill poster at work

Whatever happened to the poster? A silly question to ask at the start of the last of this series, some may think, but there is a stark truth behind it. Posters no longer matter as they once did. Advertising tycoons, and the big firms and manufacturers who employ them, prefer television for their campaigns, with newspapers and magazines as their second choice and posters a poor third.

Sometimes this is a good thing. Hoardings covered in posters in our environment-conscious age are often rightly regarded as a form of visual pollution, especially in America, where they sometimes dominate landscapes. One can imagine in a nightmare a huge poster obscuring the best view of the Grand Canyon, screaming at the would-be sightseer: “COME AND STAY AT JOE’S MOTEL.” It could never happen? Not now, perhaps, but a few years ago the rule with hoardings was “Anything goes.”

It has hardly helped the artistic side of posters that photography has taken over so many thousands of hoardings. Many of the pictures are excellent, but in the strict sense of the word, they are not posters.

All is not lost. If posters are less important than they were, they survive on a smaller scale, just as the theatre survived the coming of the cinema and the cinema survived the threat of television. What happens is that the threatened art-form exists on a smaller, and often a better, scale.

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Graphic artists go to war and the Ministry of Information is revived

Posted in Art, Artist, Communications, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, Illustrators, Politics, World War 1, World War 2 on Thursday, 9 February 2012

This edited article about posters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 635 published on 16 March 1974.

Lord Kitchener, picture, image, illustration

Lord Kitchener inspecting Australian positions during the Galipolli campaign with (inset) Alfred Leete’s famous recruiting poster, by John Keay

Like some shambling, deformed gorilla, the brutish, helmeted soldier stood over the dead mother. Her daughter stood clutching her baby son, looking back nervously but bravely at the fiend. HUN or HOME? was the message on the poster, an American one by an artist named Raleigh, encouraging his fellow-countrymen to buy war bonds. It was a typical piece of First World War propaganda.

The message – with a slightly altered design – could equally well have been BRITAIN THE BEAST or THE FIENDISH FRENCH. Before the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917, the Germans produced a poster – by the brilliant Lucian Bernhard – which portrayed the coming of Communism as a ghastly claw straight from hell, looming out of a cloud over a peaceful little town.

In fact, in the First World War (1914-18), there were comparatively few atrocities for all the appalling bloodshed, but the posters, doing their job of reflecting Government policy and stirring up hatred and the will to win, were often downright lies. But in the Second World War, when the Nazis in power in Germany committed the most hideous atrocities against the Jews and many of those they conquered, posters were mainly factual, sober and unhorrific. There were no false illusions about war in 1939-45, but everyone knew there was a job to be done. Also there was a severe paper shortage, so posters concentrated on essentials. DIG FOR VICTORY was an encouragement to everyone who could to grow their own vegetables, and CARELESS TALK COSTS LIVES, around which many posters were designed, warned of the danger of spies picking up vital information through people who were incapable of keeping vital secrets to themselves.

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The Boy’s Own Paper recruited youngsters for the Colonial Service

Posted in Adventure, Education, Famous battles, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Illustrators, Literature on Sunday, 8 January 2012

This edited article about children’s magazines originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 896 published on 24 March 1979.

Bucked at a rodeo, picture, image, illustration

Bucked! A typical illustration from The Boy’s Own Paper by Stanley L Wood

One hundred years ago, on the 18th January, 1879, the first official weekly magazine for boys was published. It was called The Boy’s Own Paper, – or “The BOP” as it was affectionately known. The BOP was founded by the Religious Tract Society in order to guide young minds and steer them away from reading the cheap novels known as “Penny Dreadfuls”.

The BOP tended in general to reflect a middle-class point of view. With its “public school” stories, and its tales of courage and endurance in far-away places, it can be said to have encouraged the “Empire-building” spirit among its readers. It is said that in some schools each pupil was issued with a copy of the magazine as it appeared.

In its tales of adventure in the colonies, the BOP presented a somewhat imperialistic attitude towards the natives of Africa and India. Over the years, its increased price, too, was calculated to keep its readership in the upper middle class, from which officers in the colonial service were recruited. Costing a penny in 1879, rising to one shilling after WWI, it cost two shillings by the 1960s.

The BOP’s format ran on almost the same lines throughout its 90-year life. Tales of true-life adventure, such as Scott and the Antarctic, appeared side by side with fictional stories, like the case of the dishonoured Boy Scout who was called a coward and therefore risked his life to prove his worth. According to one Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, the BOP turned its readers into “Men and neither prudes nor prigs”. Many famous authors wrote serials for the BOP, Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and Capt. W.E. Johns among them. Top personalities addressed messages to readers each week.

The secret of the BOP’s success lay in the fact that it treated its readers with dignity and respect. It had a reassuring, confident style which was quite unique. Indeed many other papers tried to copy its style, but failed. When, in January, 1967, the last issue was printed on the anniversary of its first edition, there were more than a few, young and old alike, who mourned the passing of the Boy’s Own Paper.

The first children’s comics

Posted in Historical articles, Illustrators, Leisure on Friday, 10 June 2011

This edited article about comics originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 965 published on 6 September 1980.

comics, picture, image, illustration

There are now many comics for girls as well as boys

Today’s grandads – perhaps, even, greatgrandads – who chuckled at the antics of the characters in Dandy 43 years ago in 1937, can still read their grandchildren’s copies of this comic today. This is the longest running comic, but of the boys’ papers, Hotspur, which first came into the shops in 1933 and is still being published, holds the record. Beano, born in 1938, is another long runner. Other long-running titles include Tiger, which is 25 years old, and Buster, 20 years old. The Rainbow, published in 1914, set a new standard in comics. Starring Tiger Tim and the Bruin Boys, its use of colour, well-written stories and good illustrations impressed parents. Though it had knockabout humour, it was of a harmless kind. There was no real violence. Also there was no deliberate bad spelling – which pleased the educationists and parents.

The battle of Dogger Bank

Posted in Famous battles, History, Illustrators, Sea, Ships, War on Wednesday, 18 May 2011

This edited article about the Russian navy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 942 published on 9 February 1980.

Dogger bank, picture, image, illustration

The Russian Fleet attacked British sailing boats by mistake

The North Sea has seen many naval encounters; but none stranger – or more tragic in its results – than the “battle” that occurred in the Dogger Bank area one night in October, 1904.

Since February of that year, Russia had been at war with Japan, and had suffered heavy defeats and losses on land and at sea. In a desperate attempt to restore the situation, the Russian high command decided to send their Baltic Fleet to the Far East. This would involve the fleet’s obsolescent ships and ill-trained crews in a voyage of nearly 20,000 sea miles.

The officers and crews were tense and nervous as they started on their marathon voyage; and none more so than their commander, Vice-Admiral Rozhestvensky. Their anxiety was increased by completely false reports that Japanese naval forces were lurking in European waters.

Towards midnight of 21st-22nd October, the Russian fleet was in the North Sea sailing south when one of the ships signalled that it was threatened by a force of torpedo-boats. Bugle calls echoed across the water as crews were called to action stations.

Soon searchlights were piercing the darkness from every Russian ship. Brilliantly illuminated in their beams were a number of small craft. Guns began to spurt fire, and shells whined towards their targets. Several hits were registered, and one of the little ships was seen to be sinking.

The Russian gunnery, however, was lacking in accuracy – which was lucky for their victims. For the “torpedo-boats” were in fact British trawlers from Hull, going about their peaceful business. It was fortunate, too, that Rozhestvensky’s attention was now drawn to a squadron of larger ships which had become visible beyond the trawlers. These, he decided, must be the Japanese cruisers.

Fire was at once switched to these more important targets. Considerable damage was done to them before frantic signals revealed that the Russians were shelling their own cruisers, which had become detached from the main fleet.

As the Russian ships sailed on, the officers and men cheerfully celebrated their imaginary victory over the Japanese. Meanwhile, the Hull trawler-men counted the cost of the Russian mistake. Two men had been killed, one trawler sunk and other casualties and damage caused.

Such was the anger roused by the incident that Britain came near to joining the war on Japan’s side. The Russians did not improve matters by insisting that there had been Japanese craft among the trawlers. In the end, Britain contented itself with forbidding the Russian fleet to refuel at British-controlled ports.

Rozhestvensky reached Far Eastern waters in April, 1905. But when at last he came to grips with the real Japanese Navy, there were no victory celebrations for his crews. His fleet was virtually destroyed in a single battle.