Influenced by the tradition of the Gift Book, Charles Folkard became a prolific and imaginative illustrator of attractive children’s books, while also creating the influential strip cartoon, ‘Teddy Tail’.
Charles Folkard was born in Lewisham, South London, on 6 April 1878, the son of a printer. Educated locally at Colfe’s Grammar School, he began an apprenticeship with a firm of designers, but left to become a conjuror. It was in designing programmes for his shows that he discovered his talent for drawing. He then studied at various art schools – including Goldsmiths’ College and those at St John’s Wood, Blackheath and Sidcup – while beginning to establish a career as an illustrator. Initially contributing humorous drawings to such periodicals as Little Folks and The Tatler, he made his name, in 1910, with illustrations to an edition of Johann Wyss’s The Swiss Family Robinson. A year later, he illustrated The Children’s Shakespeare and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, so initiating a relationship with the publisher, A & C Black, which would last for twenty-seven years.
In 1915, Folkard joined the Daily Mail as a staff artist and, in that position, invented the newspaper’s strip cartoon, ‘Teddy Tail’. When he decided to concentrate on book illustration, his son, Harry, took over the strip. Another son, Edward, became a sculptor. Having a strong understanding of the appeal of fantasy, he also wrote pantomimes and children’s plays.
He lived in Mottingham, South London, and later at Sandy Cross, Heathfield, Sussex, dying on 25 February 1963.
His work is represented in the collections of the V&A.