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Mary Shepard (1909-2000)


Mary Shepard (1909-2000)

The daughter of the much-loved illustrator, E H Shepard, Mary Shepard has her own place in the public’s affections as the illustrator of P L Travers’ immortal series of Mary Poppins books. The present set of illustrations shows how, even when working on a speculative project, ‘she inherited her father’s confident line-work and … was meticulous in research’ (Roger T Stern, 2004, page 231).

Mary Shepard was born at Red Cottage, Shamley Green, Wonersh, near Godalming, Surrey, on 25 December 1909, the only daughter and younger child of the much loved illustrator, E H Shepard, and his wife, Florence, who was also an artist. She was educated at St Monica’s, a school for girls in Tadworth, near Epsom, Surrey, and then at Villa Ste Monique, a finishing school in the Paris suburb of Auteuil, which had been founded by St Monica’s former French mistress, Mlle Manilève.

In the wake of the death of Mary Shepard’s mother in 1927, her father’s sister, Ethel, took over the running of the household, having returned from India, where she had been Head Deaconess of St Hilda’s Society, an organisation for lady teachers working under the diocese of Lahore. In the following year, the family moved into its newly built home, Long Meadow, in Longdown, Guildford.

Aunt Ethel must have encouraged Mary Shepard in her artistic abilities, as she accompanied her to her interview with Professor Henry Tonks for a place at the Slade School of Fine Art. Studying there first under Tonks and then under Randolph Schwabe, she won a summer competition prize judged by Sir George Clausen.

Soon after she left the Slade at the age of 23, Mary Shepard received an invitation from the Australian-born author, P L Travers, to illustrate her new book,
Mary Poppins.

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