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 that frequent both his delight book illustrations and his very funny cartoons.
Frank Reynolds was born at 12 Searle Terrace, Richford Street, Hammersmith, London, on 13 February 1876. He was the youngest child of William Reynolds, an Irish landscape painter, restorer and framer, and his wife, Georgiana (née Morton). He was educated at the local church school, and then worked as an apprentice carver, probably to his father at his shop in Notting Hill. When his father died, in 1896, he took over the shop with his elder brother, Tom, who would become a famous actor. His father had had a local reputation for his public readings of the works of Shakespeare, and he himself had a talent as an amateur actor.
Having already begun to contribute cartoons to Pick-Me-Up, Reynolds studied in the evenings at Heatherley’s School of Art, and there met James Thorpe, who became a close friend.
He soon contributed to other periodicals, producing particularly strong cover designs for Sketchy Bits, around 1900, and making his name with full-page humorous drawings in The Sketch. He became a staff artist on both The Sketch and The Illustrated London News, and was commissioned by The Sketch, in 1904, to visit Paris (which he did in the company of Thorpe and the cartoonist, Starr Wood). The trip resulted in the book, Pictures of Paris and Some Parisians (1908), which had a text by John N Raphael.
In 1905, Reynolds married Annie Milne, the daughter of a Liverpool cotton broker, and they would have two daughters and two sons. Of his sons, Michael became a painter and journalist, while John followed in his father’s footsteps as a cartoonist and comic illustrator, becoming best known for illustrating Sellar and Yeatman’s book, 1066 and All That (1930).
During the early years, Reynolds played a good deal of cricket 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. He was also a member of the Garrick and the Arts Club.
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, he became greatly accomplished in many branches of draughtsmanship, including watercolour. He was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1903, and scored a great success with his watercolour illustrations to novels by Dickens (1910-13). 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. He was the subject of at least two monographs during his lifetime, that by A E Johnson in 1907, and that by Percy V Bradshaw, in his series, ‘The Art of the Illustrator’, in 1918.
During the First World War, Reynolds served first in a coastal defence battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, and later in a section of intelligence devoted to pictorial propaganda.
Reynolds retired as art editor of Punch in 1930, and resigned his membership of the RI in 1933, in order to move to Thames Ditton for his health. 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 at the Holloway Sanatorium, Virginia Water, Surrey, on 18 April 1953.
Mark Bryant, ‘Reynolds, Francis (Frank) (1876-1953)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.66125