Edward Ardizzone: Artist and Illustrator
Alan Powers (Lund Humphries, £40)
EDWARD ARDIZZONE (1900–79), like his friend John Betjeman, is one of those remarkable figures who, by swimming against contemporary taste, have insidiously worked their way into the British—dare I say, English—psyche. It’s pure coincidence that their family roots were alien—in Betjeman’s case, Dutch and in Ardizzone’s, Francoitalian—as two more typically English old buffers would be hard to find. This book is part biography and part an analysis and description of Ardizzone’s work—most particularly, as the title suggests, of his work as an illustrator and graphic artist, although he also painted in oils.
Ardizzone probably shared Ravilious’s view that painting in oils was like painting with toothpaste and he was undoubtedly happiest with pen, black ink and watercolour, although his large decorative panels reinterpreting Titian’s Presentation of the Virgin, painted for the Carmelite church in Faversham, Kent,
The Ride of My Life
Michael Clayton (Merlin Unwin Books, £20) look a remarkable achievement. However, it was in his children’s books, especially those devoted to Tim and Ginger, Lucy Brown, Mr Grimes and Nurse Matilda, that he revealed his true self.
These books, based on stories he made up—ostensibly to amuse his own children, although surely as much for his own pleasure—are redolent with ‘the authenticity of recollected childhood’. Ardizzone always treated his readers as equals, telling them slightly risqué stories
I have lived my life—and it is nearly done—/i have played the game all round/but I freely admit that the best of my fun/i owe it to horse and hound.’ It is with this quote from George Whyte-melville’s poem that Michael Clayton (above), former war reporter, editor of Horse & Hound magazine in the days when ‘hacking’ referred to riding out and not suspicious phone activity and a hunting man through and through, fittingly concludes his memoir. From rubbing shoulders with royalty to risking his neck across country in the name of duty, this is the fascinating and frankly told tale of one of the great editors and horsemen of his generation—a must for any fan of horse or hound. Victoria Marston packed with adventures, careless parents, useless adults and brave children, whose resourcefulness enables them to elude the greatest dangers.
However, his scope was far wider than children’s stories and it will surprise many readers that this ‘good humoured spaniel’, as Lillian Browse described him, illustrated more than 160 books by authors ranging from Bunyan to Barrie. Walter de la Mare, Robert Graves, Eleanor Farjeon and James Reeves were his favourites.
Alan Powers gives the reader delightful insights into Ardizzone’s self-contained but wayward character, which was at one with the world he drew. Among the sources he quotes is a letter from the rather more puritanical Edward Bawden, who, with slightly grudging admiration, wrote: ‘Your pen curls around skirts and breasts and bottoms, while mine takes its recreation in formal geometric rectitude.’
This may have been in response to an illustrated wartime letter carefully preserved by Bawden, in which Ardizzone describes painting an enchanting group of WRNS, ‘small and dumpy with