Gordon Browne, RBA RI (1858-1932)
Though also working as a painter and cartoonist, Gordon Browne made his reputation as a prolific illustrator of novels and stories aimed at boys.
Gordon Browne was the younger son of Hablot Knight Browne, who remains best known as ‘Phiz’, the essential illustrator of Dickens. He was born in Banstead, Surrey, on 15 April 1858, and educated privately, before studying at Heatherley’s School of Art, Newman Street, and National Art Training School, South Kensington. His father became partly incapacitated by illness in 1867, and so he began to work as an illustrator while still a student in order to contribute to the family income. Work on Ascott R Hope’s The Day After the Holidays (1875) inaugurated numerous commissions for books and periodical contributions, and by the turn of the century he had proved extraordinarily prolific as a cartoonist as well as an illustrator. Early achievements include 550 drawings for an edition of the works of William Shakespeare (1888-90), and three books of illustrated nonsense rhymes for children published under the pseudonym ‘A Nobody’ (1895-1900). Enormously painstaking and highly talented, he failed to equal the fame of his father only because his work appeared too widely and in cheap editions, so that he never became associated with a single significant author.
Astonishingly, Browne found time to develop a parallel career as a painter. He exhibited oils and watercolours from 1886, mainly at the Royal Society of British Artists (being a founder member in 1891) and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours (RI 1896).
Living for much of his career in St John’s Wood, Browne later moved to Richmond, Surrey, where he died on 27 May 1932.