Sunday, March 27, 2011

Happy birthday, Robin Jacques

"Robin Jacques: an artist of sustained brilliance", a checklist of the artist's works, is available for a reasonable cost from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Robin Jacques and Ruth Manning-Sanders went hand-in-hand.

Ruth retold the fairy tales from around the world. And Robin illustrated them, magnificently and memorably. He was the illustrator for the 20+ volumes of the "A Book of..." series. Giants. Dwarfs. Dragons. Witches. Wizards. Ogres. Trolls. Ghosts. Goblins. Spooks. Monsters. Mermaids. Changelings. Heroes. He drew them all.

If Ruth's fairy tales drew you into another world, then it was Robin's drawings that completed the illusion and took the reader to a strange and faraway land.

Robin Jacques, who died in 1995, would have been 91 today.

He led a fascinating life. One that is certainly worthy of a full biography.

Jacques (pronounced "Jakes") was born in London on March 27, 1920, and was orphaned at any early age. He had no formal art training and was self-taught, going on to a long career as an illustrator, art director and educator. He served as art editor for The Strand Magazine and later taught at Harrow College of Art, Canterbury Art College, and Wimbledon Art College in the 1970s.

Jacques' artwork employed the stippling technique. In penning Jacques' obit for The Independent in 1995, Nicholas Tucker wrote:
"Jacques's real talents were always for black-and-white drawings. Drawn with the finest of lines against backgrounds made up of innumerable swirling dots, his heroes and heroines stood out as if momentarily frozen in what they were doing. This static quality, even in the middle of otherwise violent action, was typical of Jacques's style. These were drawings over which children could always take their time, observing every detail at leisure without ever feeling rushed towards the next sequence."
Though Jacques was surprisingly critical at times of his own work -- his output included more than 100 books -- he seemed most satisfied with his fantasy illustrations for the Manning-Sanders books. The website Glass Grapes1, which features the only photo of Jacques that I've come across, quotes Jacques as saying:
"My preference is for children's books of the more imaginative and fanciful kind, since these leave greater scope for illustrative invention, where I feel most at home. Thus, my work with Ruth Manning-Sanders has proved most satisfying, and the twenty-five books we have done together contain much of the work that I feel personally happiest with."
In London, commuters and tourists continue to walk past his work every day. Since 1979, seven murals of Sherlock Holmes by Jacques have been featured at the Baker Street tube station.

1. The Glass Grapes site features a nice gallery of images of Jacques' work. Other sites that include a sampling of his drawings include this entry on the Illustration Station blog and this survey of Jacques' illustrations for C.S. Forester novels.


  1. I have an oil painting with R Jacques signature. Did he ever paint with oils on canvas?
    Thank you, Elizabeth

  2. Fabulous. Thanks for this posting!