Edward Ardizzone, CBE RA ARWS RDI (1900-1979) Highly observant and immensely humane, the work of Edward Ardizzone is in direct descent from the finest French and English illustrators of the nineteenth century. Developing as an artist from 1930, Ardizzone made his name as an illustrator through his contributions to The Radio Times and then with Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, which proved to be one of the most significant picture books from between the wars. Soon considered one of the greatest illustrators of his generation, he also gained a reputation as a distinguished Official War Artist, through his record in word and image of action in Europe and North Africa. Versatile and productive, he produced paintings, sculptures, etchings and lithographs, and worked as a designer. Edward Ardizzone was born in Haiphong in French Indo-China on 16 October 1900, to a Franco-Italian father and a Scottish mother. The family returned to England in 1905, and lived mainly in East Anglia until 1919, when they settled in London.
However, Ardizzone was educated away from home, at Clayesmore School in the Thames Valley, and it was there that he first developed his artistic talent. Working as a statistical clerk from the age of nineteen, he took evening classes at the Westminster School of Art under Bernard Meninsky (1921-26). After seven years, he decided to take up a career as a painter and illustrator, and began to exhibit in solo shows at the Bloomsbury (1930) and Leger Galleries (1931-36). Synthesising the bulk of Meninsky’s figures with the humour and facility of French and English illustrators, he moved from the tight, sinister vignettes of In a Glass Darkly (1929) to a more typically generous draughtsmanship, achieving widespread recognition with Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (1936), the first of the books that he both wrote and illustrated.
Ardizzone reached a particularly wide public through his contributions to periodicals. His drawings for Radio Times first appeared in 1932, and he was chosen in the same year to design the cover of the Christmas issue. He was also closely associated with the Strand magazine, providing a series of coloured drawings of Londoners in 1942, and drawing all except one of the covers between October 1946 and December 1947. Soon considered as one of the greatest illustrators of his generation, he also gained a reputation as a distinguished Official War Artist, through his record in word and image of action in Europe and North Africa.
After the Second World War, Ardizzone worked increasingly as an illustrator of literary classics, and collaborated closely with a number of contemporary authors, including James Reeves. A teacher of illustration at Camberwell School of Art and of etching at the Royal College of Art (1953-61), he won several prizes including the Carnegie Medal (1955), the Hans Christian Andersen Medal (1956) for Farjeon’s The Little Bookroom, and the first Kate Greenaway Award (1956) for Tim All Alone. Working additionally as painter, sculptor, lithographer and designer, he was elected to the membership of the Society of Industrial Artists (1947) and the Royal Academy (ARA 1962, RA 1970). He was created CBE in 1971, and a Royal Designer for Industry three years later. Living in Maida Vale for most of his career, he spent an increasing amount of his final decade in Kent, and died in that county on 8 November 1979.
On 3 May 2007, an English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled by Sir Christopher Frayling in honour of Edward Ardizzone, at his former home at 130 Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale, London, W9. The assembled company then repaired appropriately to the Prince Alfred, Formosa Street, one of Ardizzone’s former watering holes, for a celebratory reception.
His work is represented in numerous public collections, including the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, Tate and the V&A; and the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford).
Further reading: Brian Alderson, Edward Ardizzone: A Bibliographic Commentary, Pinner: Private Libraries Association, in association with the British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2003; Dr Nicholas Ardizzone, Edward Ardizzone’s World. The Etchings and Lithographs, London: Unicorn Press/Wolseley Fine Arts, 2000; Gabriel White, Edward Ardizzone, London: Bodley Head, 1979