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The Artist Behind the Bear: E. H. Shepard

Today is Winnie the Pooh Day. Winnie the Pooh and his author, A. A. Milne, taught so many children about the power of friendship, adventure, and love. I would like to share with you another person who was so important in bringing this beloved bear and his friends to life for millions of children across the globe. Meet Ernest Howard Shepard, English artist and illustrator.

[Note: all images belong to the artist and respective auction houses, galleries, publishers, and businesses with copyrights. We claim no rights over the imagery used below.]

E. H. Shepard, "It Appears You have Eaten a Bee", The House at Pooh Corner interior book illustration , 1928, Illustration of Tigger at bush with Piglet, Pooh bear, and Eeyor watching him.
E. H. Shepard, "It Appears You have Eaten a Bee", "The House at Pooh Corner" by A. A. Milne, interior book illustration , 1928, Artnet.com

E. H. Shepard (1879 – 1976), was surrounded by art his entire life. His father was an architect and his grandfather was a watercolor painter. While attending the British Royal academy, he met his future wife Florance Chaplin, also an artist. After serving in the artillery during World War 1, Shepard began working for the London-based satirical Punch publication as an illustrator.

E. H. Shepard, Cover for Punch magazine , ca. 1938, Large script "Punch" at top. Man in striped shirt with dog in hat looking into distance over water where a steamship sails off.
E. H. Shepard, Cover for Punch magazine , ca. 1938, Artnet.com

A.A Milne was a former assistant editor to Punch, so, prior to publishing When We Were Very Young, he submitted a prose about his son Christopher to Punch. Shepard was recommended to Milne to illustrate his work. Shepard initially illustrated the eleven verses that appeared in punch. Milne loved the illustrations so much, that he invited Shepard to illustrate the entirety of When We Were Very Young.

E. H. Shepard, "Market Square", Full page illustration of Poem from "When we were Young", Punch Magazine, 1920s
E. H. Shepard, "Market Square", Full page illustration of Poem from "When we were Young" by A. A. Milne, Punch Magazine, 1920s, Collectorsprints.com

Milne was so pleased with When We Were Very Young’s illustration and success, that he employed Shepard’s services again for Winnie the Pooh, Now We are Six, and House at Pooh Corner. Due to the success of the Winnie the Pooh books and illustrations, Shepard continued to illustrate Winnie the Pooh editions and exhibit original sketches for the rest of his life.

E. H. Shepard, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, Relaxing, Sketch, 1940s, Winnie the Pooh stands and piglet sits in an armchair in front of a fireplace.
E. H. Shepard, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, Relaxing, Sketch, 1940s, Invaluable.com

Shepard did complete illustrations for other novels after Milne’s. One of his most famous set of illustrations, other than Winnie the Pooh, were for Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Shepard was lauded for making the characters appear realistic and not puppet-like. He also continued to contribute to Punch.

E. H. Shepard, Preliminary cover design for The Wind in the Willows , 1959, Toad dressed in coast and hat is talking to Badger in waistcoat in front of Badgerhole.
E. H. Shepard, Preliminary cover design for "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame, 1959, Artnet.com

When Shepard was in his nineties, he was approached to create color illustrations for the Winnie the Pooh books. In less than four months he painted 240 drawings for all four of Milne’s books with the silly ol’ bear. Shepard died in 1976, the year of Winnie the Pooh’s 50th anniversary.


E. H. Shepard's watercolor illustration in "the House in Pooh Corner", "The Complete Tales of Pooh, by A. A. Milne, Eaton Press
E. H. Shepard's watercolor illustration in "the House in Pooh Corner", "The Complete Tales of Pooh", by A. A. Milne, Eaton Press

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on our latest blog posts, workshops and events. Read about resident artist Hannah whose favorite movie is Winnie the Pooh.


E. H. Shepard, "For a long time they looked at the river beneath them..." , 1969–1970, Pooh, Piglet, and Christopher Robbin standing on a bridge looking over the railing.
E. H. Shepard, "For a long time they looked at the river beneath them..." , 1969–1970, Artnet.com

 

Sources:

“A.A. Milne The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh Leather Book.” Easton Press. Accessed January 14, 2022. https://www.eastonpress.com/all-categories/literature/a.a.-milne-the-complete-tales-and-poems-of-winnie-the-pooh-2236.html.

“E. H. Shepard.” Artnet.com. Accessed January 12, 2022. http://www.artnet.com/artists/ernest-h-shepard/3.

Kosik, Corryn. “E.H. Shepard.” Illustration History, June 2018. https://www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/ernest-howard-shepard.

Ripley-Duggan, Edward. “E.H. Shepard & The Art of Illustration.” Doyle, 2020. https://doyle.com/specialists/edward-ripley-duggan/stories/eh-shepard-art-illustration.

“Sold at Auction: Earnest Howard Shepard.” Invaluable. Accessed January 7, 2022. https://www.invaluable.com/artist/shepard-ernest-howard-4s38s93xtv/.


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Sydney Davis-Campos is the Virtual Learning Coordinator at Able ARTS Work, Learn for Life. She has a B.A. in Studio Art and Art History. Sydney has worked at Able ARTS Work for almost 5 years where she has also held the positions of Art Instructor and an Assistant Program Manager.

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