Throughout his career, S R Badmin used his great talents – as etcher, illustrator and watercolourist – to promote a vision of the English countryside and thus of England itself. By underpinning his idealism with almost documentary precision and detail, he was able to produce images that appealed to all, and could be used for a great variety of purposes, from education through to advertising. The wellbeing suggested by each rural panorama is all the more potent, and pleasing, for the accuracy of each tree and leaf, and the plausibility of the slightest anecdotal episode. Stanley Roy Badmin was born at 8a Niederwald Road, Sydenham, London, on 18 April 1906, the second of three sons of Charles James Badman, a teacher, and his second wife, Margaret (née Raine). He was educated at Sydenham School, where he adopted the surname ‘Badmin’ on the insistence of his father in the vain hope that it would divert ‘jeers & insults’.
Badmin studied at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts (1922-24), before winning a studentship to the Royal College of Art, initially to study painting, though he later transferred to the design school (1924-27). In 1925, he married Margaret Colbourn, known as ‘Peggy’, and soon settled with her at Aleroy, 45 Thorpewood Avenue, Sydenham, a house built for them by his father.
Together they would have two children: Patrick (born 1936) and Joanna (born 1939).
Badmin began his career by contributing illustrations to The Graphic (1927) and The Tatler (1928), and holding his first solo show, at the Twenty-One Gallery (1930). Further solo shows would take place at the Fine Art Society (1933 & 1937). Having taken further courses at the RCA and Camberwell, he qualified as a teacher in 1928, and supplemented his income by teaching part-time at Richmond School of Art (1934) and St John’s Wood School of Art (1936). However, he worked increasingly as an etcher and watercolourist, and was soon elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (ARE 1931, RE 1935) and the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (ARWS 1932, RWS 1939). He was also a member of the Artists’ International Association (from 1936).
In 1935, Badmin received a major commission – from the American magazine, Fortune – to depict various towns in the United States; the results were exhibited at M A McDonald in New York, in spring 1936. An important development in Badmin’s illustrative style was marked soon after his return to England by Highways and Byways of Essex, a collaboration with F L M Griggs (published in 1939). Even before the Second World War, he made a mark as an educational illustrator and was particularly admired for his accurate depiction of trees. Before working in the war, for the Ministry of Information and the Royal Air Force, he made a major contribution, in 1940, to Sir Kenneth Clark’s Recording Britain – a term that might well be applied to his work as a whole.
From 1945, Badmin worked increasingly as a commercial artist, designing advertisements and posters, and producing illustrations for greeting cards and calendars. Equally in demand as an illustrator of books and periodicals, he published Trees for Town and Country (1947) and contributed to Radio Times. Divorcing his first wife in 1948, he would marry the widow, Rosaline Flew (née Downey), in 1950, and bring up her daughter, Elizabeth, with his children. In 1951, Rosaline gave birth to their daughter, Galea Rosaline.
Only from the mid 1950s was Badmin able to paint two or three major pieces for each RWS exhibition, and hold a show at the Leicester Galleries (1955). Even then, he found time to embark on projects for Shell: Geoffrey Grigson’s The Shell Guide to Trees and Shrubs (1958) and four volumes of the series of ‘Shell Guides to the Counties’. In 1959, he and his family moved to Bignor, near Pulborough, West Sussex, from where he continued to paint and exhibit. He held a further solo show, at Worthing Art Gallery in 1967. His achievement was honoured by the RWS in devoting a part of its Autumn Exhibition to his work in 1984, and by the Chris Beetles Gallery, in mounting a major retrospective in 1985 and subsequent exhibitions. He died at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, West Sussex, on 28 April 1989.
Further reading: Chris Beetles, S R Badmin and the English Landscape, London: Collins, 1985; Christopher Beetles, ‘Badmin, Stanley Roy (1906-1989)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2010, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/64261