Harold Gaze
Harold Gould Ivan Gaze (1884-1963)

Harold Gaze was one of the most original illustrators of fantasy working in the British Commonwealth and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. read more...
Harold Gaze
Harold Gould Ivan Gaze (1884-1963)

Harold Gaze was one of the most original illustrators of fantasy working in the British Commonwealth and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. His achievement has still to be fully recognised, and his life to be fully charted. However, the present biography is the fullest and most accurate to date, drawing as it does on the archive of the artist’s famil

Harold Gaze was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 31 August 1884, the younger son of English parents, William Gaze, a medical doctor, and his wife, Annie (née Gould). At the time that Harold was born, the family was based in Westport, on the South Island of New Zealand, and William was working as a doctor for the Denniston Coal Mines. Following a move to Australia in 1895, William ran private clinics in Melbourne and Shepparton, both in Victoria. While still a doctor, he bought and managed a farm in Westport, eventually giving up medicine to concentrate on farming.

Lacking devotion as a husband or a father, William was so frequently unfaithful that his wife, Annie, eventually separated from him. She returned with her sons to England, where they stayed in Kingston upon Thames with her father, Alderman Frederick Gould (described as ‘surgeon, dentist and JP’ in the 1891 census, and as ‘chemist and druggist’ in notices of his death). Harold attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, in Kingston. While still a teenager, he was sent to Devon to work on farms to build his strength (and later worked on an experimental farm in Canada).

Harold’s mother, Annie, trained as an obstetric nurse and, when he finished his schooling, they moved to Ladbroke Grove and, later, Gipsy Hill. According to the 1901 census, they were living together at 180 Ladbroke Grove, and Harold, aged 16, was working as a clerk. He studied art at the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole School of Art, in Kensington, and also at the Polytechnic School of Art, in Regent Street. While attempting to establish himself as an artist, he followed his brother, Leslie, into the theatrical profession, and spent about ‘ten years of non-success’ as an actor (according to an ar
ticle in TP and Cassell’s Weekly published in 1926) – in London, the provinces and New York.

At the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, Gaze was rejected from taking part in active service. Instead, he was involved in the munitions industry, and became a member of the British Inspection Staff that visited a military plant in Brooklyn, New York, in 1916. G P Putnam’s Sons, of New York, published his first book illustrations in 1917, for Mrs Rose Strong
Hubbell’s If I Could Fly: stories in free verse for children.

In 1917, Gaze went on to Australia, and settled in Melbourne, living first at ‘Cypress Dene’, Dendy Street, Middle Brighton, and later at ‘Dunvegan’, Esplanade, Brighton Beach. He possibly arrived with a portfolio ‘with which to impress and tempt local publishers’ (Holden, 1992, page 82), and his first Australian title,
The Wicked Winkapong, with his own text, was published by Melbourne’s Gordon & Gotch in time for Christmas 1918, and properly launched his career. More of his fantasies for children were published by Whitcombe & Tombs and the Melbourne Publishing Company, and he also became a member of the Victorian Artists’ Society, at which he exhibited. By 1920, he had moved to 17 Burns Lane, Sydney, New South Wales, and in the following year had migrated to New Zealand and was living at 109 Winchester Street, St Albans, Christchurch. He published a further three books while he was in New Zealand and, combining robust, grotesque draughtsmanship and a confident use of watercolour, he proved himself the leading male illustrator in a genre that was dominated in Australasia by women.

In 1922, Gaze returned via Cape Town to London, and stayed at 47 Birkenhead Avenue, Kingston upon Thames, with a ‘Miss Gould’ (probably his Aunt Ada or Aunt Millie). However, in 1923, he left England again, this time for United States, where he settled first at 466 Westminster Road, Brooklyn and, between 1924-27, at 68 Spring Street, Marshfield, Massachusetts.

During his early years in America, Gaze again published illustrated books, both those with his own texts and those written by others. Then, after he moved to Pasadena, California, in 1927, and settled at 681 Mira Monte, he almost stopped illustrating books, preferring to produce independent fantastic watercolours that he exhibited at the Fine Arts Club of Pasadena, and in successful solo shows across the United States. His signature inclusion of the motif of bubbles led to his becoming known as ‘The Bubble Man’. For a few months, he became a member of the team of artists working on Walt Disney’s
Fantasia (1940), but found the process too industrial, so quit his position. He also wrote a number of plays and screenplays, sometimes in collaboration with others, which he copyrighted, but seems never to have published or produced.

In 1959, Gaze returned to England, initially living with his beloved niece, Pamela Dodds, and her family in Dulwich, South London, where he was known as ‘Uncle Hal’. Then, after six months, he moved to 71a Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead, where he befriended the artist and writer, Raymond Hitchcock. His death was registered on 25 October 1963.

His work is represented in numerous public and institutional collections, including Scripps College (Claremont CA).

Further reading:
Robert Holden,
A Golden Age, Volume 1: Visions of Fantasy: Australia’s Fantasy Illustrators: Their Lives and Works, Pymble: Angus & Robertson, 1992, pages 80-84

With thanks to Madeleine Dodds, the artist’s great niece, for help
in compiling this entry.