The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

September 9, 2016

September 9, 1922

Pauline Baynes (September 9, 1922 to August 1, 2008) the British illustrator, did pictures for both C. S. Lewis and Tolkien.

According to one obituary, "Baynes's depiction of the country and denizens of Narnia is the definitive representation of the extraordinary land beyond the wardrobe."

Pauline Baynes:

... illustrated more than 100 books, as well as creating covers and frontispieces for others, and a vast number of pictures for magazines, advertising art and greetings cards. The hallmarks of her work were a talent for lively, imaginative designs; the ability to create a sense of energy and animation; a confident fluidity of line; a bold use of vibrant, gem-like colours and the subtle employment of negative space.

Notable volumes from her diverse output include A Treasury of French Tales by Henri Pourrat (1953), The Arabian Nights and Fairy Tales from the British Isles, both retold by Amabel Williams-Ellis (1957 and 1960); The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes, compiled by Iona and Peter Opie (1963); Mary Norton's The Borrowers Avenged (1982) and stories by Beatrix Potter, Alison Uttley, Rumer Godden and Enid Blyton.

Many of Baynes's later picture books were devoted to religious subjects such as All Things Bright and Beautiful and The Song of the Three Holy Children (both 1986), .....These books reflect the artist's personal quest for spiritual understanding and her fascination with the world's cultures and religions. [She also created a]... suite of illustrations decorating passages from the Koran.

Pauline Diana Baynes was born in 1922, in Brighton, the younger daughter of Frederick Baynes and his wife Jessie (née Cunningham). Her father was a commissioner in the Indian Civil Service, and Pauline spent her first years in Agra, India.

Returning to Britain when she was five, Pauline was educated first at a convent school, of which she retained many unhappy memories....When she was 15, Baynes spent two terms at Farnham School of Art studying design (a skill that would be the bedrock of all her illustrative work) before following her sister, Angela, to the Slade School of Art, then based in Oxford.

....Her influences were, she said, "firstly, a brilliant elder sister" followed by a catalogue of artists whose work she studied and admired: Edmund Dulac, Rex Whistler, Arthur Rackham, Gustave Doré, the Punch artists R.S. Sherriffs and E.H. Shepard (who would become Pauline Baynes's friend and mentor) and a particular graphic hero, the French illustrator Jacque-Marie-Gaston Onfray de Bréville, who signed his work with the pseudonymous acronym "Job".

In 1940, following the outbreak of the Second World War, the Woman's Voluntary Service despatched the two Baynes sisters to work as assistant model-makers with the Royal Engineers' Camouflage Development and Training Centre based in Farnham Castle. It was through a fellow worker, Powell Perry, who belonged to a family firm that printed children's picture books, that Baynes got her first commission, illustrating a book (no copy of which is known) entitled
Question Mark.
In 1942, Baynes was drawing charts for the Admiralty Hydrographic Department in Bath, whilst illustrating more children's books, this time for Country Life. Her début as both writer and illustrator,
Victoria and the Golden Bird, appeared in 1948 and, in the same year came the commission that was to establish her reputation when a portfolio of artwork submitted to the publisher George Allen & Unwin was shown to J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit.

...It was Baynes' collaboration with Tolkien that led to her subsequent association with the septet of children's novels written by Tolkien's friend C.S. Lewis and published annually between 1950 and 1956: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader', The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle.

"Met C.S. Lewis. Came home. Made rock cakes." That's how Baynes's diary recorded one of only two meetings she ever had with the author whose work she so memorably pictured and with whom she is now inextricably linked.

The relationship between author and artist was cordial and professional but without the depth of respect and affection existing between Baynes and Tolkien. Lewis foolishly flattered Baynes (who loathed the merest hint of sycophancy) whilst, incautiously, carping about some of her pictures to others. She was profoundly wounded when some of his comments came to her ears, especially his devastating criticism that she couldn't draw lions. For readers of the books, however, the pictures were, and have remained, an integral part of the whole culture of Narnia – not even displaced by the big-screen dazzlements of the recent movie versions.

The most unforgettable illustrations in the books are unquestionably those featuring animals – real and mythical ....– and especially – dogs, a succession of which accompanied Baynes throughout her life and which surely inspired her own 1985 Kiplingesque story, "How Dog Began."

Baynes's animal pictures were always a delight, whether in memorable editions of How the Whale Got his Throat (1983) and Black Beauty (1984) or a trio of animal stories by Helen Piers, the first of which, Snail and Caterpillar (1972) was runner-up for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She also created another iconic image with her Puffin paperback cover painting for Richard Adams's Watership Down.

In 1961, Baynes met Fritz Gasch, a German ex-prisoner of war who was working locally as a dog's-meat man. A whirlwind courtship led to their marriage. They were a close couple and Fritz became especially friendly with Tolkien and Shepard, with whom he traded war memories. Fritz's sudden death, in 1988, left Baynes bereft but she poured her energies into her work and produced some of her most accomplished pieces.

Their only child, a son, had been stillborn, but Pauline started "adopting" friends in whose lives she took a tireless interest and with whom she would animatedly debate politics, religion, art, literature and the many other aspects of life about which she had an insatiable curiosity. Late in life she was, in turn, adopted by the family of Fritz's daughter by an earlier marriage who had not seen her late father since her own childhood.....

In February...of [2008], The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was voted the best children's book of all time, beating titles by J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton. The enduring success of the book is due, in no small measure, to the work of one of the great illustrators of the 20th century.....

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