Joan Hassall (1906-1988) Working as a wood engraver, illustrator and typographer, Joan Hassall developed a sensitive style and meticulous technique reminiscent of Thomas Bewick. Joan Hassall was born in Notting Hill, London, on 3 March 1906, the daughter of John Hassall [see pages 73-74] and his second wife. She was educated at Norland Place School, Holland Park, and Parsons Mead School, Ashtead, Surrey. With talents in both art and music, she had hoped to train as a musician, but her parents persuaded her to become a general teacher, and she studied at the Froebel Education Institute, Roehampton. In 1927, she spent some time working as secretary to her father, while he was running the London School of Art. However, she soon turned to art herself and studied art at the Royal Academy Schools (1928-33), winning a Landseer Scholarship in her third year, and developing as a portrait painter under the guidance of Gerard Kelly. Enrolling at the LCC’s School of Photo-Engraving and Lithography, Bolt Court, Fleet Street, in 1931, she studied wood engraving under R John Beedham and, inspired by the work of Thomas Bewick, became involved in the revival of the medium.
As her first commission, she produced a wood-engraved title page to Devil’s Dyke (1936), a volume of poems by her brother, Christopher Hassall. Her illustrations to Calling for a Spade (1939), included here, indicate how her experience of wood engraving affected her work in pen and ink. During the Second World War, Hassall taught book production at the Edinburgh School of Art, though was relieved of her position in 1943 as a result of ill health. On returning to England, she created some of her most characteristic illustrations, informed by historical study, for such works as Miss Mitford’s Our Village (1946). Her attentive method culminated in the Folio Society’s edition of Jane Austen (1958-63). She also produced bookplates and designs for the BBC and London Transport. Elected to the membership of the RE in 1948, and acting as the first woman Master of the Art Workers’ Guild in 1972, she was awarded an OBE in 1987. Having visited Malham, North Yorkshire, regularly since the 1930s, Hassall retired there late in life and died there on 6 March 1988.