(Note to parents: there’s some minor artistic nudity on this post).
Last weekend some artist friends came by the studio: Barry Klugerman (left), an artist, collector, and connoisseur of illustrated books; fellow illustrator Mark Elliott; and muralist, portrait painter, and illustrator Mike Wimmer (far right). Mike was stopping by on his way home to Oklahoma after attending the Hartford Art School Illustration MFA Program.
Barry brought up his collection of academic figure drawings by Ernest H. Shepard. Better known for his Winnie the Pooh illustrations, Shepard won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools in 1897, where he received rigorous academic training. At age 18, he was the youngest student there, but he was already good at drawing. Both his parents were artists, and they were close friends with the artists Frank Dicksee and Edwin Abbey.
These drawings were done in 11 sessions, 2 hours each (with breaks) in the figure class under proctors like George Clausen and John Singer Sargent. Once the pose was set by the visiting teacher, the students were not allowed to make suggestions, and they were absolutely forbidden to speak to the model. Male and female students worked and lived separately.
Nevertheless Shepard met the woman who was to be his first wife at art school. Her name was Florence Eleanor Chaplin, three years his senior, but at least his equal at drawing (her drawing above). Like many gifted female artists, she sacrificed her career for her responsibilities in a Victorian marriage.
Shepard soon was illustrating for the magazine Punch. According to biographer Rawle Knox, “knowing that he was a draughtsman rather than a colorist, he tried to get a footing as an illustrator and black and white artist.” The apparent ease and simplicity of Shepard’s Pooh illustrations belie the long hours of careful observation from his early training.
All images are copyright their respective owners.
Information from The Work of E H Shepard, by Rawle Knox, available at Amazon.