Thursday, 30 July 2020

David Apatoff and Raymond Sheppard

Rabbit sketch

This is a really quick notice to say David Apatoff, the author of many art books which I own, such as
Robert Fawcett: The Illustrator's Illustrator, The Life and Art of Mead Schaeffer, Albert Dorne: Master Illustrator, The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs and my favourite so far, Austin Briggs: The Consummate Illustrator, has written about Raymond Sheppard.

David's Amazon profile says:
David Apatoff likes great art in humble places: magazine and book illustration, comic strips and advertising art. "Many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air." I should use that as it sums up my hobby so well. 

I've been following David's blog for years as I love reading writing about art as it educates and inspires, and his recent series on The energy of the 1960s really made me appreciate another section of illustrators' works which as a child I dismissed as ghastly (compared to the naturalism of say, Sheppard). I need to warn you, you are about to go down a very entertaining rabbit hole if you follow any of these links to his blog!

Thanks for making contact David.

Illustration Art blog

Links to David's articles on Sheppard:

Monday, 20 July 2020

Raymond Sheppard and Ruxley Oast House, Chilham Square, Eynsford Bridge and Olive Cook too

Ruxley Old Church

An email can send me down rabbit holes of fun sometimes.  Come with me to Kent, the "garden of England" (is that still true?). Cilla Hawkley wrote to me sharing an image of an Oast House she had.
I have a framed picture by Raymond (see picture attached), which I've been unable to find anywhere online.  I wonder whether you know anything about it?  It is in exactly the same style as some of the illustrations in The Rolling Year by WJ Blyton that I've seen online.  Maybe it appears in there? [Afraid not Cilla]

The picture belonged to my uncle and was framed rather strangely, so I had it redone. On the back it said 'Oast House and Old Church (used as a barn) Ruxley, Kent. 

I've always absolutely loved the picture, but knew nothing about the artist, or why my uncle had it, although he was born in Kent.  I wondered whether the buildings are still there, and have now found that Ruxley is now classed as in Bromley.  The barn/church now appears to be Grade II listed by Historic England but there is no sign of the oast house.

My uncle was born in 1921 in nearby St Mary Cary (then hop- and strawberry-picking Kentish countryside) and my mother, who was born in 1915 (so was only two years younger than Raymond) went to school in Bromley.  This would explain my uncle's interest in the picture (apart from its beauty).  From 1946 onwards my uncle worked as a printer for Thanet Press in Margate.  I know they took work from all over the country and I'm wondering whether Thanet Press ever printed, or reprinted books containing Raymond Sheppard's illustrations, as this might explain where Uncle got it.

I'd be really interested to hear from you, if you have the time and inclination.

Best wishes
Cilla Hawkley
I've never thought of cataloguing the printers of Sheppard's work so can't immediately help there, but it's a very strong possibility Thanet Press printed the images below. I checked a few books around the time and ones I've written about already and none were printed (or more accurately credited to).

So I went exploring Ruxley, but before I got what I wanted Cilla wrote back with more information. 

St Botolph’s Church, also known as Ruxley Old Church, was built adjacent to Ruxley Manor in about 1300. It served as the parish church of Ruxley until 1557, by which time it was in a ruinous state. Cardinal Pole de-consecrated the church and relocated the  congregation to the parish of St James’ Church in North Cray. It was subsequently converted into a barn, which was known as Church Barn in the 18th century. A cylindrical stock brick oast house was built at the north-east corner in the early 19th century. The church was latterly used as a donkey-mill, chicken house, stable and machine shop before it was restored in the late 20th century.
I found the following tweet on Twitter from Bexley Archives (@BexleyArchives, November 6, 2018) 

Incredibly both Sheppard and Bexley Archives show the same farmer and horses. So it looks as if Sheppard added the photo characters to his version of the church and oast house!

Sadly times have changed. The church is now right next door to Ruxley Manor Garden Centre.

Arrow shows church on edge of car park!

And this is an image captured from Google Streetview shows its current sad state:

Ruxley collapsed oast house and church

If you want to know more about the conservation work head to the PDF format newsletter (June 2018) of the Society of St. Botolph, where you can read several pages and see inside...and there's mention of the "oast kiln" too. Thanks to Cilla for setting me off on another exploration of places illustrated by Raymond Sheppard.

Last year I received two images by Raymond Sheppard. An eBayer (buydi1953) is also selling them at the moment and kindly confirmed the information written on the rear of both pictures which again saved me a lot of work!

The ebayer kindly replied:
The two R S prints had these inscriptions on when bought in 1974 and sold as ‘ Kent’ with Chilham Square Canterbury and Eynsford Bridge, Kent 1930. I looked up pictures of the latter and it looks as if that is so. However the Chilham Square site I took it ‘as written’ as I am not familiar with Kent .
The strange thing is that in doing the research on Chilham, trying to match views with Google, I remembered a view and realised my wife and I have been to Chilham Square, as it's called!
Chilham in Kent
Looking down Taylor's Hill from The Square, Chilham in Kent

Here's where I think this comes from - as shown on Google Streetview - although I can't replicate the exact angle!

The Square, Chilham, Kent

The second image I purchased is also presented in the pair being offered by the eBayer which makes me think they were sold as a pair when first sold (perhaps 1930 according to the above information)

Eynsford Bridge in Kent.jpg
Eynsford Bridge in Kent

The River Darent at Eynsford photo by Jerry Clarke on Google Maps shows a very close match to Sheppard's position but Google's Streetview van couldn't get up the narrow road. Maybe one day I'll visit the area and update the photos myself! The ford next to the bridge still exists - and can be seen via the tyre tracks in the first image below.

Eynsford Bridge from the High Street

Closer view of the cottages

The view from the cottages on Riverside


Finally I want to share some images that Christine Sheppard owns which may or may not relate to the above but are certainly in the same style.

Mock-up cover of Cambridgeshire by Olive Cook
The image is a print of a farmer sweeping straw on the floor of an enormous barn and the picture is glued to a hand-written title and author. It's possible that this was a mock-up by Sheppard himself (a sort of portfolio piece) and it's mounted (most likely by Sheppard's wife) on construction paper along with these images below.

The British Library has a record for a Blackie publication of 1953 "Cambridgeshire: aspects of a county" with 112 pages and illustrations. One reference I've found to the book shows photographs apart from the drawn windmill on the title page (not Sheppard) and credits for photographers. "Janus", the Cambridge University cross-archive catalogue, has an entry on Cook and her papers.  Cook married Edwin Smith, the photographer famous for many British scenes including Wells Cathedral steps leading to the Chapter House and together they eventually moved to Saffron Walden. Cook was a native of Cambridgeshire and with her husband produced many books on British (and Italian) architecture.

The two other images are below and are described by me. If anyone has any ideas where these might be Christine Sheppard and I would be most grateful to know. meanwhile enjoy the artwork - sorry for the poor photos.

Cobbled floor, archway and tower

Monk walking from under an archway

Monday, 15 June 2020

Raymond Sheppard and The Island of Birds by Olivia FitzRoy

The Island of Birds - Cover
I've written about Olivia FitzRoy before so shall avoid repeating myself. During this lockdown in Britain, many people apparently are having trouble sleeping, and I took advantage of joining that number, the other night, by reading The Island of Birds by Olivia Fitzroy (London: Jonathan Cape, 1954).

The dustjacket tells us:
Jamie and Jean Stewart are convalescing after measles at Carrick on the west coast of Scotland. Their housekeeper, Maggie, is looking after them, but they are depressed because their family and friends are away and they can find nothing interesting to do. But one day a friend. Fergus, does arrive, and persuades Maggie to let him take them to his island in his fishing boat, the Wandering Star. They are delighted to learn that they are to act as crew for the voyage, and that Fergus's Island of Birds is forty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. They enjoy exploring the island with its deserted village, keeping house in the cottage Fergus has rebuilt for himself, fishing and watching birds, including a pair of rare sea-eagles which have nested on the cliffs. An unexpected interruption of their happiness is the arrival of two shady characters who pretend to Jean, whom they find alone in the cottage, that they are friends of Fergus's. Inadvertently she gives away the secret of the sea-eagles' nest. From then on Fergus and the children are defenders in a battle to protect the valuable eggs from the two would-be thieves. The Island of Birds proves to be an even more exciting place than Jean and James had bargained for.
Here is a desert island with a difference and a 'treasure' with a difference. What better setting could there be for a story about the protection of rare birds than the Western Isles, beyond which lies the well-known sanctuary of St. Kilda?’.

I enjoyed the book - maybe because I should have been asleep and felt sort of childish again, reading 'under the covers' so to speak! But the story was fun - exploring the island and the life away from the mainland with the two children and their temporary guardian. The mystery around Fergus is never divulged but he is never 'familiar' and we wonder what will happen on the island.

Olivia Fitzroy's The Island of Birds takes us excitingly to a western isle beyond the Outer Hebrides. For the growing army of young bird-watchers it has special interest, but it will also hold the attention of those for whom birds are little more than a noise in the morning. Raymond Sheppard's beautiful illustrations are some of the best I have seen in a children's book for a long time ~ The Catholic Herald, 3 December 1954, p.8
By the way, there was a BBC children's programme in the late 50s and early 60s with the same title but that was based on a French programme where Jacky and Hermine explore old wrecks and other things scattered along the shore

Anyway, rather than tell you the story - I'll warn you the images below might contain spoilers, so look away now, if you don't want the story spoiled for you!

List of illustrations
I found this list interesting as there a lot more illustrations than those listed. Do you remember when colour illustrations were 'tipped in", i.e. separately published and bound / glued into the main book? Well, I guess this is a hang over from those days as the illos they refer to here are all full page illos.

The other interesting thing is I own a proof copy - this is where a publisher issues a printed rough (normally paperback) to get newspapers to review them and use that 'blurb' on covers and advance materials and also to check what's set up is accurate in terms of spellings and labels on images. Here is where I noticed not only does the proof copy have lighter printing of the images but also skips some of them! And the proof copy has a contents page which is omitted from the hardback I have!

p.13 Jean and Jamie looking bored

p.20 not in the proof

p.21 Maggie hangs out washing

p.29 Fergus arrives  - not in the proof

p.30 Fergus' boat, the "Wandering Star"

p. 43 Jean, Jamie and Fergus eat

p. 45 Basking shark

p. 55 not in the proof

p. 56 Fergus' house

p. 65 not in the proof

p.66 Lobster pots

p.76 Jamie was the first to get a bite

p. 85 Puffins swimming

p. 95 To see the great sea eagle soar out from it

p. 97 not in the proof

p. 98 Fergus plays the accordion

p. 109 Fergus was standing in the boat, laughing

p. 127 not in the proof

p. 128Jim and Willy ("Wye")

p. 134 "What's that?" asked Jim

p. 146 not in the proof

p. 147 Sea Eagle

p. 155 A school of bottled-nose whales

Interestingly the picture of the bottle-nosed whales, is listed in the illustrations as if a full page. But perhaps it's one of those with a caption - despite appearing in the middle of text on page 155.
p. 161 not in the proof

p. 173 not in the proof

p. 174 Jamie waving his hankerchief

p. 186 Suddenly as they talked there was a rush of wings

p. 189 The three of them peer over the cliff edge

p. 198 - similar to p.155 in that it is captioned and listed

p. 203 Jean sits up in bed startled

p. 209 similar to p.155 and 198 in that it is captioned and listed

p. 212 Jamie stuck in the hold

p. 224 He crept up the ladder and for a moment looked back on the scene

p. 226 Jamie swims away from the boat

p. 234 not in the proof

p. 244 Heights had no terror for Wye

p. 253 not in the proof