Ernest Howard Shepard, MC OBE (1879-1976) While Shepard is now best remembered for his immortal illustrations to Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows, he was a wide-ranging illustrator, with an unsurpassed genius for representing children, and an underrated talent for political cartoons. The son of an architect, E H Shepard was born in St John’s Wood, London on 10 December 1879. He was encouraged in his early talent for drawing at St Paul’s School, taking extra classes at Heatherley’s School of Art. Between 1897 and 1902, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools, winning the Landseer Scholarship and the British Institution Prize. Receiving much pleasure from his work as an oil painter, he exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1901. He also developed a great interest in the illustrators of the 1860s and hoped to contribute to Punch. While beginning to establish himself a book illustrator, he had his first cartoon accepted in 1907, and from that time the two careers worked in parallel.
Serving as an officer in the Royal Artillery throughout the First World War, Shepard was awarded the Military Cross in 1917.
During this time, he kept several sketchbooks and worked up some of these drawings for memorable inclusion in Punch.
Shepard was elected to the Punch table in 1921 and made good friends with both Frank Reynolds, the magazine’s new art editor, and the writer E V Lucas. It was Lucas who introduced Shepard to A A Milne, thus initiating several immortal projects, most obviously When We Were Very Young (1924) and Winnie the Pooh (1926). Shepard also illustrated Lucas’s writing in Playtime and Company (1925) and As the Bee Sucks (1937), his own selection of Lucas’s essays. His range as an illustrator could encompass such historical works as Everybody’s Pepys (1926) and such children’s classics as The Wind in the Willows (1931).
Shepard succeeded Leonard Raven-Hill as second political cartoonist on Punch in 1935, and Bernard Partridge as principal cartoonist in 1945; producing some impressive political cartoons during the Second World War. Continually sketching and reworking, he still managed to retain the appearance of spontaneity in his finished work, and excelled at the depiction of both movement and character.
Late in life, Shepard turned to himself as a subject and illustrated his autobiographical reminiscences, Drawn from Memory (1957) and Drawn from Life (1961). He was awarded the OBE in 1972, and died at Midhurst, Sussex on 24 March 1976.
His work is represented in the collections of the British Museum and the V&A; and the Shepard Archive at the University of Surrey (Guildford).
Further reading: Arthur R Chandler, The Story of E H Shepard:the man who drew Pooh, West Sussex: Jaydem, 2001; Rawle Knox (Editor), The Work of E H Shepard, London: Methuen, 1979