E H Shepard remains world famous for defining the look of Winnie-the-Pooh and other characters in his immortal illustrations to the children’s classics of A A Milne. However, he was a wide-ranging illustrator and cartoonist. This can clearly be seen in this new exhibition, which explores his impressive but overlooked output for Punch, the quintessential British comic weekly. Cartoons, illustrations and decorations are all well represented.
Shepard published his first two cartoons in Punch in 1907, and worked for the magazine for almost 50 years. In 1921, he joined the staff, and made a variety of contributions that, during the 1920s, included many beautifully-observed social cartoons. Eventually succeeding Leonard Raven Hill as Second Cartoonist (1935-45) and Bernard Partridge as Cartoonist (1945-49), he produced astute political cartoons, especially during the Second World War. Even when he handed over the position as Cartoonist to Leslie Illingworth, he continued to contribute to Punch for another four years.
Shepard left Punch only when sacked by the incoming editor, Malcolm Muggeridge, who failed to recognise that he was the most dynamic contributor of his generation. He was better appreciated by R G G Price, who wrote A History of Punch (1957). He understood that,
'Shepard’s work was distinguished by movement. Compare any of his drawings of any period with the usual Punch drawing. He does not seem to have depended on a studio pose or a diagrammatic composition. One feels the studies for the pictures were made on a wind-ruffled sketching-block … Above all he was thinking in terms of the dance. With Shepard the rest of Punch began to look static.' (page 211)