Hopalong Hollow....

Hopalong Hollow, where the Blueberries grow sweet, and the moss feels soft beneath your feet.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The unsung artists, contempories of Beatrix Potter... and a "second string"

 No one would argue that Beatrix Potter is one of the most beloved and well-know Storybook creators of all time. However, during the time of her writings there were countless other marvelous artists and writers creating books, board games and greeting cards, people we rarely recognize. To honor these unsung artists, I plan on introducing their wonderful work  in a few posts which I will stagger over the next few weeks. I think it is about time that the works of these illustrators and writers have a revival and receive more credit for their contributions to Children's Literature.
All the illustrations you see on this post are by the artist ERNEST ARIS

 Let me start with an Artist that actually had a connection to Beatrix Potter.  In 1916 when Beatrix Potter, (who by that time wished to be known by her married name of Mrs Hellis) was in her 50's, and suffering from diminished eyesight. She found that her painting skills were marred by this sad fact.  Her niece had written a story and Beatrix  began a search for just the right illustrator to  fulfill the mission of illustrating this story, in a way that Beatrix P. imagined it should be.



By post, she contacted the  Illustrator Ernest Aris. Mr Aris was a prolific artist in his own right.
Submitting  rough sketches, color ideas and the Name of the Book, "The Oakmen", to Mr Aris,  B.Potter kept her identity a secret as well as the PLOT of the book... But she did ask that he use the style of  Beatrix Potter, from the book "Jemima Puddleduck".
 Mr. Aris claimed he was unaware of such a book, to which Beatrix Potter took great offense!


  She did purchase 6 illustrations that he created for her. Although first pleased with his work, she eventually decided to shelf  the paintings he provided thinking them too bold, the colors too bright and not at all in her style.  She decided to illustrate the story herself.
 But she never did


 As an artist myself, I can certainly not imagine being asked to illustrate in someone else's style, so it hardly seems fair that he would be expected to fulfill her wishes to a tee. Not to mention the fact that Beatrix referred to him as a "Second String " artist and said "his animals are not good". I have to disagree with that, I LOVE his animals.


  Tazzletip was an entire series
 
 So, what do you think? Is this an artist that should have had more recognition? I believe so.

30 comments:

  1. Yes and I have never heard of him. What a man. Needs to be a biography written.

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  2. Jeri, this is so interesting. I do believe Aris deserves more recognition! It's shocking that Beatrix Potter called him second string. She certainly had her difficulties being recognized. Maybe her wealthy background affected her thinking. By the way, his art reminds me of your's!
    P.S. Your cococubs are adorable. ♥

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    1. I think there may have been some professional jealousy going on. Although she was quite famous by that time, he had published many more books,advertisements,cigarette cards and games...He had quite a portfolio.

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  3. Oh this was so interesting Jeri!! I enjoyed learning about Ernest Aris!
    Thanks for sharing, and I am looking forward to your future artist offerings!! :-) And your collection og mettle figures are wonderful!!
    xx oo Linnie

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    1. I knew you would like those little lead figures. It is fun searching for the missing links!

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  4. Thank you for sharing this interesting info on Ernest Aris, an artist I had not heard of. I like his paintings a lot and those tiny animal toys are charming.

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    1. I really love his work too. It is very different than Miss Potters: her work was soft, delicate, dreamy and beautiful;almost comforting. His work is lively, fun, active and imaginative. Both styles are welcome in this world.

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  5. Perhaps it was simply that she felt he had slighted her?

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    1. Except that she made the comment before she had even hired him for the work. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, she said to her publisher that she "wished for a long time that you would find me some "second String", this man to my thinking is just what we want". In other words, she wanted an artist she felt was lesser than herself. Could have been artistic competition.

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  6. Thank you for this lovely and informative post about an 'unsung' artist. How neat and fitting for you to have some of these little tiny metal toys.

    Each artist is unique.

    Thanks dear Jeri for your kind comment on my latest post.

    Love, hugs & Happy Fall ~ FlowerLady

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    1. Indeed, each artist has their own way of doing things.

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  7. Dearest Jeri, hello! So glad to see you again!

    How true...so many unsung artists and heros, teachers and parents, caregivers, workers whose skills and inventions have become part of our daily lives. When will the chorus sing their praises? It's hard and heartbreaking to be an artistic person when one realizes that the lonely and unsung song is part of the journey. But you have brought to light some of the sweetest illustrations that I've run across in my time, and thank you for giving these people their due praise. I hope you are well and are continuing to dazzle your audiences. HUGS TO YOU and have a happy holiday season!

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    1. That is beautifully said; there are so many unsung treasures in our midst, in every walk of life. And I think that most who do good work, in whatever fashion it may be, consider the journey the reward. Not necessarily fame or riches, which will come to very few. Aren't his illustration just marvelous?!!

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  8. I enjoyed this post very much. I'm a sucker for any anthropomorphic animal, but especially rabbits. I love his work. I'd never heard of those little cocoa collectables before. How wonderful to have found one of those in your cocoa as a child! -Jenn

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    1. In Britain, the cococubs are well known, but they weren't available in our Countries, to the best of my knowledge. Whenever I find one, it comes from the UK.

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  9. Dear Jeri,
    Although I did not connect his name with his artwork, I do recognize his beautiful illustrations, and I would not consider him a second string artist. I actually find that a very offensive statement.. I am quite surprised that Beatrix would make such a statement. I find his work to be
    whimsical and very well done. I love his animals! Thank you for the insight on Ernest Aris, and sharing his work with us.
    I love your collection of Cococubs.
    Also, thank you so much for your encouraging words on my Dolls. I am happy you enjoyed viewing them.
    Love and blessings,
    Penny

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    1. I know, it was a bit shocking to learn about her remarks. We tend to put famous people on a pedestal and forget they are just human with all the faults, jealousies and pettiness of the average person. Love those little dolls!

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  10. This is a great post! thank you so much for the fun way you educated your readers. I have to say, I am disappointed in Miss Potter. I look forward to more artists' stories!

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    1. I have already got a woman illustrator in mind for the next story; she will be a lady from the 1930's who did the series entitled "Little Grey Rabbit", 25 books in that series!

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  11. Another reason I love reading your blog, education! I did read a lot of little golden books to my kids not sure any of these but indeed his illustrations are beautiful but I have to say you by far have become tops with me !

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  12. Thank you Pamela, I really appreciate that!
    Eloise Wilkin was the illustrator for most of the Little Golden Books I loved as a child and I will definitely be featuring her wonderful paintings in a future post.

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  13. I collect children's books for their illustrators I love so I have The New Rabbits' Home in my collection. I also have several of the Little Grey Rabbit series written by Alison Uttley and illustrated by Margaret Tempest. In fact I was going to use that series for several blog posts until I read Ms. Uttley's biography and found her personality to be so off-putting that I set it aside. Even Mrs. Heelis in later years garnered a reputation for being rather outspoken. Perhaps it was all those years of being a quiet, dutiful daughter and once she was freed she had a thing or two to say!

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    1. I thought you may have been familiar with Ernest A. I collect Childrens books as well, it's the reason I am doing these posts. In fact, Margaret Tempest is my next installment; just the artist, not the author, Mrs. Uttley. I'll give B.P a pass for being snobbish, but sometimes fame does strange things to people, who knows?!

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  14. Oh Jeri - what a delightful and informative post. I have loved Beatrix Potter but Mr. Aris' work is just as lovely as Beatrix. So grateful you shared. Will be looking forward to reading about other illustrators. Hope your November is off to a great start. Hugs!

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    1. Yes, his work is refreshing! I wish there were more reprints in the works for his many books. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the National Trust working on his behalf, as does Beatrix Potter.

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  15. Being a second string artist doesn't mean what you seem to think. Potter wasn't belittling Aris. She was searching for someone with his talent for very specific reasons. Even the Masters had "second stringers," namely artists who were apprenticed to them. Those seconds had to . . . Well, I won't bore you, but it's often easy to tell when a "second stringer" did things such as backgrounds, furnishings, etc. Subtle differences give it away.

    "Beatrix Potter had always illustrated her own stories but by 1916 her eyesight was beginning to fail and her hands were growing stiff. She urged her publisher to find 'some second string' to illustrate her new tale, The Oakmen.

    Keen to retain the credit for the illustrations, Potter sought a commercial illustrator who would 'draw to order'. She sent pencil sketches of her designs, along with instructions, to a prolific children's illustrator, Ernest Aris (1882 - 1963). However, she was careful to conceal both the text of her story and her own identity.

    Potter in any case felt that Aris was 'not quite a good enough artist'. For her, his work demonstrated 'considerable technical facility' but 'no originality'. Instead, Potter recounted the story in a picture-letter to her niece, Nancy Nicholson.

    It may have been Aris's business-like approach that can account for his lack of imagination and subtlety. Indeed, he himself said that his artistic method had always been governed by a set of 'commandments'. Potter, however, refused to work to order, arguing that 'The more spontaneous the pleasure - the more happy the result'."

    Terms used in their era have a different meaning and are often misinterpreted today. Please do not think poorly of Potter. And I agree with her. His style is different from hers in that he does use stronger colors while Potters were softer. And after all this you still doubt, Google "second stringer." There are second stringers on basketball teams, football teams, soccer, etc. They enter the game when the main player cannot play. Potter's eye sight was failing. She needed a second stringer. :)

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    1. According to the dictionary, second string means exactly what I said it means, she said it herself; he was not good enough. As far as his having no imagination, I only have to look at his work to see that he has a tremendous imagination. I hold no ill will towards Beatrix Potter, for Petes sake, I did a tribute to her in my second book in the form of pictorial trivia and I own nearly every book every written about her. This is because I love her work,both her artwork and her stories. She doesn't really need an apologist; she's been glorified in every way possible, but a realistic look at personality is a healthy thing. This Post is about artists living at the same time as B.P., who were popular at the time, but whose work is ignored in the present. I am drawing attention to these artists, they deserve just as many Kudos as does Beatrix Potter.But one must remember that her contemporaries did not have the benefit of being championed by the National Trust, they did not bequeath 3000 acres of land and properties. It is up to fellow illustrators and artists to keep their memories and work alive.
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  16. I just love these illustrations. I think that his animals have a lot more personality than Potter's. Her drawings are perhaps more lifelike but his capture their spirit.

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    1. Vic, Absolutely agree with you. As much as I love Potters work, I feel that Imagination, as well as talent, have everything to do with great art.

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