E. H. Shepard (1879-1976)

Image: Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May is an oil painting on canvas created in 1908 by British Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse. It was the first of two paintings inspired by the 17th century poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick.

From: Penelope Fitzgerald – a Life (2013) by Hermione Lee:

“…in 1937, Evoe (Knox) fell in love again, with a much younger woman. She was Mary Shepard, the daughter of the brilliant Punch artist Ernest Shepard, the illustrator of Winnie-the-Pooh (always known as ‘Kipper’), who was not best pleased that his widowed boss, in his mid-fifties, was going to marry his twenty-eight-year-old daughter…

…between 1944 and 1946 Penelope had at least one miscarriage…She must have thought, in these years, that she might never be able to have a family…sympathy came from surprising directions. After one miscarriage, the notoriously silent ‘Kipper’…’called on me [and]…handed me a bunch of flowers without a word’.

…In March (1976), ‘Kipper’, Ernest Shepard, died…Rawle (Knox) embarked on a book on The Work of E.H. Shepard, published in 1979, which Penelope would help him write…She wrote eloquently of the air and movement in Shepard’s drawings, which ‘would blow across the white spaces of a text from one page to another’. (Rawle) was frank about Kipper’s ruthlessness and repressed emotions – the sort of behaviour Rawle knew all about…”

From the website Illustration History:

“Ernest Howard Shepard was born on December 10, 1879 in London to Henry and Jessie Shepard…Though his early years of childhood were happy, his life changed at ten years old when his mother died. He and his two siblings moved in with their aunts until Henry Shepard could save enough money to buy a house for them all in Hammersmith…

…he pursued a career in art by winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools where he continued his art studies in “irrepressibly high spirits.” Shepard’s friendly personality, fondness for practical jokes, and theatricality earned him the nickname “Giddy-Kipper,” of which the shortened version of “Kip” stuck with him for the rest of his life. While at the Royal Academy, Shepard met his future wife, Florence Chaplin, who was also an art student three years ahead of him. Neither of them had any money, so Florence agreed to marry Ernest when they had sufficient finances to start a life together. Coincidentally, the painting Ernest had successfully submitted to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1904 had sold for £100, while Florence had just received her payment for a completed mural commission; the two felt suddenly prosperous and decided to get married. The couple moved to Shamley Green, Surrey where they painted together and raised two children, Graham (born in 1907) and Mary (born in 1909).

In 1914, when World War I began, Shepard enlisted in the Royal Artillery and was assigned to the 105 Siege Battery where he battled at the Somme, Arras, the Third Battle of Ypres, and in Italy. At the end of his four-year service, Shepard was awarded a Military Cross and retired with the rank of Major. While he was at war, he continued to submit ideas to Punch regularly, drawing and painting the countryside around him in Europe. His perseverance clearly paid off, as upon his return home from the war he was offered to join the “table” at Punch. A full time position at Punch was Shepard’s dream since it not only offered a regular income, but would also allow him to sit where the revered Sir John Tenniel had once been, and work for the landmark publication that his wife’s grandfather, Ebenezer Landells had founded. Shepard had been so excited that he recalled “I nearly fell off my perch when I got the letter.”…

…Ernest Shepard had a wooden toy horse that he had loved dearly as a child but he was forced to part with when he moved in with his aunts after his mother died. It was this attachment to a beloved toy that may have helped him understand the importance of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and the need to create illustrations that brought Christopher Robin’s toys to life…

(Florence Shepard died suddenly in 1927.)

…By 1931, Kenneth Grahame invited Shepard to illustrate his children’s classic The Wind in the Willows. Shepard stated “I was more excited when they offered me that than Pooh.”…

…The new editor of Punch in 1932, E.V. Knox, married Shepard’s daughter, Mary in 1937. Still working at the magazine now run by his son-in-law, at the start of World War II, Shepard began drawing a series of cartoons attacking Hitler and other leaders involved in the war…A great deal happened as Shepard aged; his son was killed at sea near the end of World War II, Ernest himself remarried at the age of sixty-five, and he was “sacked from Punch” by the new editor, Malcolm Muggeridge…”

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