Sunday 5 August 2012

A previously unknown piece by John Hall Thorpe?

The Saki dust jacket artist revealed!

After my previous post about this wonderful, and ridiculously rare dust jacket for a book by one of my favourite authors, I thought I'd try and find out a bit about the artist, who's clearly credited in the bottom left hand corner: 'Hall Thorpe'.

Mere seconds on Google reveal that it has to be John Hall Thorpe (1874-1947), who, it turns out, was an Australian-born artist who moved to England and made his name with a hugely popular series of colourful woodblock prints. Though he also produced landscapes and city scenes, his trademark was  flowers. Here's his single most famous print, 'The Country Bunch', made up from 15 blocks which apparently took Hall Thorpe a full year to prepare:

This print, and many others like it were hung above countless fireplaces in the 1920s and 30s, and Hall Thorpe still has a considerable following today, as this 2008 exhibition catalogue shows. He was really hitting his stride in the period just after the First World War, exactly the time he would have designed the jacket for Beasts and Super-Beasts, which includes some flowers along with the society gent and the wolf, just for good measure.

The very informative blog The Linosaurus, which contains several posts about the artist (who bizarrely does not have a Wikipedia entry yet), mentions a children's painting book with art by Hall Thorpe, but I've yet to discover any other book or dust jacket work by him: which makes his Saki design doubly rare! (And gives me another reason to be annoyed I missed my chance to buy it...)

John Hall Thorpe ended up living in Bexhill, on the South coast of England, where he died of pneumonia in 1947 (a committed Christian Scientist, he refused medical help when he got ill). If you're local to the area, you might want to visit an exhibition of his prints being mounted by Pimpernel Prints at The Seaside Gallery in Bexhill from the 10th to the 22nd of September 2012. I might pop along meself.

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