Saturday, March 07, 2009
Probably the most prolific freelance artist to be involved in the production of cigarette cards was a gentleman enigmatically referred to in the records of printing firm Mardon, Son & Hall as “H. Woolley”. He was responsible for preparing the artwork for some or all of the illustrations appearing on at least 25 different sets of cigarette cards and in addition prepared dozens of sketches for adverts, show cards and the like.
Searches of the main artist directories have revealed little about H Woolley and the only reference I have found is in Johnson & Gretzner’s Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940. This briefly states that he exhibited in 1912-13 at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Miniature Painters. They give an address for him of Westwood, Bellerton Road, Knowle, Bristol.
A reference to a Harry Woolley is made in A Checklist of Painters c1200-1994 2nd Edition where he is described as “British, 20th Century”. I strongly suspect that H Woolley and Harry Woolley are one and the same. A trawl through the British Library records and the Abebooks website reveal a small number of publications which Woolley illustrated. These are as follows:
Books by H. Woolley
The Funny Bunnies. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd., 1944.
Ginger the Cat. The strange tale of a tail. London, Raphael Tuck, 1945.
Playing the Game in Animal Land. London, Ralphael Tuck & Sons Ltd., 1946?
The Piggy Wiggies. London, Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd., 1948.
Billy Bunting Story Book. No publisher (probably Raphael Tuck & Sons), n.d. (1940s?)
The Adventures of Bunty and Bertie. London, 1949?
It's Grand Fun. London, Tuck, 1955.
Animals We Know by E. H. Thomson; illus. with J. Murray Thomson. London, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1924.
Bow-Wow. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1924.
The Chummy Book: 12th Year, illus. with others. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1924.
The Jolly Book. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1924.
Peep-Bo Stories. London, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1926.
Wonder Book: A Picture Annual for Boys and Girls, illus. with others. London, Ward Lock, 1926.
My Book of Pets. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1927.
Merrythought Tales. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1939.
Roy the Lion by Madeleine Collier. London & Glasgow, Youthful Publications, 1947.
Baby’s First Book by Brenda Lewis. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth (Ladybird Series 413), 1954; revised by Margaret Borrett with additional illus. by Roy Smith, Ladybird. c.1973.
Puppies and Kittens by Margaret Gagg. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth (Ladybird Books Series 563), 1956.
Not listed elsewhere but in my collection is an illustration of a building being erected which has been signed “Woolley”. This appears in one of Ward Lock’s Wonder Books and it is possible that he may have made additional contributions to this series.
The books listed above are for the juvenile market and most are undated, but those that are cover the years from 1924 to 1956. These closely follow the period during which he is known to have produced work for Mardon, Son & Hall (MSH). As he had exhibited during 1912 this provides a period of operation from 1912 to 1956, with a possible birth date of around 1890.
MSH were based in Bristol and it is from the Knowle district of the city that Woolley submitted his works to the RA and RMS. It is within the bounds of possibility that he attended art school in Bristol and may even have briefly been employed by MSH. However, the only address I can find in their records is Fairlights Cottage, Broadlands, Brede, Sussex, and the name of his Agent is noted as W Partridge. When he moved from Bristol can only be surmised.
The cigarette card artwork that Woolley produced covered a wide range of subjects, which confirms that his skills were wide-ranging. It would be cumbersome to list all the series with which he was associated but the diversity of his output can be gauged from the following:
Cricketers, 1934, a series of 50 (John Player, 1934)
Radio Celebrities, two series of 50 (W D & H O Wills, 1934)
Film, Stage & Radio Stars, a series of 50 (Ardath, 1935)
Famous British Airmen & Airwomen, a series of 25 (Lambert & Butler, 1935)
Football Club Captains, a series of 50 (Ogden & Hignett, 1935)
Famous Irish-Bred Horses, a series of 50 (John Player) 1936
Dogs, a series of 50 cards (Ogden & Hignett, 1936)
Aircraft of the Royal Air Force, a series of 50 (John Player, 1938)
Horsemanship, a series of 50 (Lambert & Butler, 1938)
Stars of Screen & History, a series of 25 (Mitchell, 1939)
(* Additional info: Harry Woolley was listed as living at 12 New Court, Lincolns Inn, London W.C.2 between 1924 and 1939 after which it becomes impossible to confirm his address through the phone book. He contributed colour illustrations to the Illustrated London News .)
Update 24 August 2010
I've not found Alice, Eliza or Harry in the 1901 census but there is a Harry Woolley living in Bristol at the time of the 1911 census, which I don't have full access to. However, by searching in different ways I can say that this Harry Woolley was born in Lancashire and gave his age as 29, so it might be "our" Harry.
Harry Woolley was married twice. His second marriage was to Sheelah A. McCarthy in 1954, by which time he was living in Sussex.
John, related by marriage through this second marriage, tells us that Harry also made miniatures and produced some wonderful water colours of beautiful and elegant women and landscapes, also producing landscapes in oils. One of his oil paintings (The Wave) can be seen above.
He died near Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1959, aged 78.