Friday, December 10, 2010

Ernest H. Shepard, the Illustrator of Winnie-the-Pooh

Ernest H. Shepard, who drew the magical lines that gave a shape, personality, mood and soul to the world of Christopher Robin-the forest, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Tiger, and of course, Winnie-the-pooh, was born on this very day (December 10), many years ago, precisely in 1879. Much blessing to all generations of children to come to befriend with the “silly old bear,” Winnie-the-Pooh, and growing up with him in his forest. Remember the way Pooh was coming downstairs?: “bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.” Or, the Pooh hanging high up on the branch to get honey from the bees. Or, Pooh that couldn’t get out of the Rabbit house after eating way to much honey and condensed milk. A week later, Christopher Robin and all animals in the forest had to come to pull him out of the Rabbit’s front door(hole). Or, how Christopher fixed Eeyore’s tail with a tiny nail that sticks out, that made mostly gloomy Eeyore so happy running in circles. So delicious! We all have our favorite moment of Pooh in action, don’t we?

E.H Shepard was born in London to a mother who was a daughter of a water-colorist, and to a father, an architect by profession, and an amateur actor. Rawle Knox, the author of The Works of E. H. Shepard (1980) wrote: “He was born, of imaginative parents, into a world which he found romantic almost as soon as he could use his eyes and ears.”
(His happy boyhood in the Victorian era was so well captured in his memoir Drawn from Memory (1957). No wonder how he could capture the mind of children, and their imaginations so well in his drawings. He reminisces of his boyhood in great detail, always paying close attention to the people he encountered. Knox wrote,“His tales, told in a rarely broken atmosphere of happiness, vividly describe an age, and yet say even more about the author.”).
After reputable St. Paul’s School, he went to the Royal Academy School, with a 3 year scholarship. He met his wife Florance there. They had son Graham, and daughter Mary. Graham’s teddy bear, “Glowler” became the model of Winnie-the-Pooh. When he was introduced to A.A.Milne for Mr. Milne’s works of verses (When We Were Very Young), Mr.Milne didn’t like Shepard’ drawings. He wanted someone on his level of reputation, perhaps. Well, but that soon changed, A.A.Milne even wished that Shepard’s drawings decorate his grave. Although Shepard was most known for his illustrations of A.A. Milne’s four books (When We Were Very Young 1924, Winnie-the-Pooh 1926, Now We Are Six 1927, The House of at Pooh Corner 1928), his works are beyond them: Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1930), and Richard Jefferies’s Bevis (1932), just name a few. Until his death in 1976, Shepard never stopped his delicious drawings for tales of children.

Many praised the works of Shepard.
“Master of line” Bevis Hillier, former editor of The Connoisseur.
“In When We Were Very Young, Ernest Shepard looks at children with the understanding sympathy and sense of humor and a recollection of his own childhood that make it possible for him to take a fair share in making this book.”
-Helen Cady Forbes "Delicious Sillies" in New York Herald Tribune Books, December. 14, 1924.
“Mr. Milne should go down on his knees every night and thank God for having sent him an illustrator so perfectly attuned to the spirit of his tasks as Mr. Shepard has proved himself.”
-NYT Book Review, October 23, 1927.

Well, it wouldn’t be necessary to what critics said about Shepard’s drawing. Let’s just get a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh, or When We Were Very Young or anything by Shepard. And make yourself lost into his “lost and found” lines, and the world of children and forest animals.

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