Frank Reynolds, RI (1876-1953) Drawing mainly from memory, Frank Reynolds was much admired for his direct characterisation of middle-class and low-life types and situations.
Frank Reynolds was born in London on 13 February 1876. The son of an artist, he studied at Heatherley’s and, during the 1890s, began to contribute pen and ink work to a number of periodicals including Judy, Longbow, Pick-me-up and The Playgoer. He produced particularly strong cover designs for Sketchy Bits, around 1900, and made his name with full- page humorous drawings in The Sketch. He played a good deal of cricket at this time and, on joining the London Sketch Club, proved to be a good bowler in its matches, which were known as ‘The Married Men’ versus ‘The Single Men’. He was President of the London Sketch Club during the year 1909-10.
Reynolds was advised by John Hassall, a fellow member of the London Sketch Club, to try the softer media of pencil and crayon and, as a result, became greatly accomplished in many branches of draughtsmanship, including watercolour.
He was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour in 1903, and scored a great success with his watercolour illustrations to novels by Dickens (1910-12). His Humorous Drawings for the Press (1947) placed a great stress upon clarity at the expense of aesthetic finish. Drawn mainly from memory, his own work was much admired for its direct characterisation of low-life urban types and situations. Originating in the work of Keene and May, his style was often considered a reaction against the ‘prettification’ of Punch, while Fougasse saw it as foreshadowing the free drawing of the 1950s. A contributor to Punch from 1906, Reynolds joined the staff in 1919 and, a year later, succeeded his brother-in-law, F H Townsend, as art editor, a post he retained for over a decade. Much of his best work for Punch appeared in colour in the Almanacs and Summer Numbers, including some memorable pastiches.
In 1933, he resigned his membership of the RI and moved to Thames Ditton, apparently to retire. But as his popular creation ‘The Bristlewoods’ attests, he continued to illustrate throughout the 1930s and into the period of the Second World War. He died on 18 April 1953.
Further reading: Percy V Bradshaw, The Art of the Illustrator: Frank Reynolds, London: Press Art School, ; A E Johnson, Frank Reynolds, London: A & C Black, 1907