Faith Jaques (1923-1997) The quiet power of Faith Jaques’ illustrations lies in a combination of meticulous research, sensitive interpretation and clear observation. Faith Jaques was born in Leicester on 13 December 1923, the daughter of a businessman. She attended Wyggeston Grammar School for Girls, until the age of fifteen, though she later said, ‘I ... truly believe I was educated by Penguin Books, public libraries and the BBC’ (Martin 1989, page 61). First studying at Leicester College of Art (1941-42), she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service in order to leave home, and was posted to Oxford. While there, she managed to take some lessons at Oxford School of Art under William Roberts and Bernard Meninsky, and it was then that she decided to become an illustrator. From early on, her favourite illustrators had been Rex Whistler and Eric Fraser. Demobbed in December 1945, Jaques went to the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, on an ex-service grant ‘so low she was forced to lodge in a Salvation Army Hostel for her first six months’ (Nicholas Tucker, ‘Obituary’, Independent, 7 August 1997).
Her teachers included John Farleigh, Laurence Scarfe and John Minton. From the late 1940s, she lectured at Guildford School of Art (1948-53) and Hornsey College of Art (1960-68) on a part-time basis, while contributing to many magazines and producing other graphic work. For a period of twenty-five years, until 1973, she was a regular contributor to Radio Times. Jaques bought a house in Uxbridge Street, Notting Hill, in 1964, and four years later gave up teaching. Though she had illustrated books from 1950, she concentrated on the art from the mid 1960s, working mainly in black and white, and admitting Edward Ardizzone as a significant influence, while demonstrating a closer visual alliance to Lynton Lamb. Early successes included The Hugh Evelyn History of Costume (1966-70, 4 volumes), the first edition of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1967) and Nina Bawden’s Carrie’s War (1971). In the late 1970s, she illustrated all of Leon Garfield’s ‘London Apprentice’ series (1976-78, 10 volumes), before beginning to write her own children’s books, the first being Tilly’s House (1979). In 1979, Heinemann commissioned Faith Jaques to re-illustrate the first four of Alison Uttley’s ‘Grey Rabbit’ tales, as the plates of the original illustrations by Margaret Tempest (1892-1982) had become too worn to be reprinted. The results were well received, as instanced by one review of Tales of Little Grey Rabbit (1980): ‘Faith Jaques has added in her way to the credibility of tales in which a rabbit makes Primrose Wine, a hare plays Noughts and Crosses with a fox and old Hedgehog delivers milk to assorted customers. These firm, compact drawings ... bear witness to an artistic skill and tact’ (Margery Fisher, Growing Point, 1979, page 3693) In 1982, Uttley’s tales also provided the basis for the first of her brilliant series of cut-out picture books, Little Grey Rabbit’s House, while Tales of Little Brown Mouse appeared in 1984. She was invited to become an honorary member of the Association of Illustrators at this time. Jaques continued to write and illustrate following her move to Hill House, Sion Road, Bath, in 1987. She died a decade later on 12 July 1997.
Her archive and working library, including original artwork, are held in the collections of Seven Stories, the centre for children’s books, Newcastle upon Tyne.