But I don’t know a whole lot about him, and just about that same amount as not a whole lot is readily available on the web (I’ll admit, much of my more detailed information about illustrators comes from various “scholarly” places online).
E.H. Shepard (1879-1976) is most widely known for creating the image of Winnie the Pooh and his friends that we now associate with the legendary bear. Disney fanatics aside, I think purists prefer Shepard’s imaginings over Disney’s.
Born in London, Shepard was working as an illustrator by between 1900 and 1910 and steadily became more successful, eventually becoming an illustrator for the magazine Punch. He briefly left Punch to enlisted in the British Army and fight in WWI, but returned from war and joined the Punch staff full-time.
Shortly joining the Punch staff, Shepard was recommended by a friend to illustrate A.A. Milne’s book of poetry for children entitled When We Were Very Young. This was followed up with…Winnie the Pooh, which, without even knowing each important children’s literature title of the past 100 years, I can confidently rate as being one of the top 10 most popular. I’d be happy to hear arguments against this.
Shepard continued to illustrate Miln’e subsequent children’s books int he 4 book series, Now We Are Six and The House at Pooh Corner. He was also approached by Kenneth Grahame to illustrate the 1931 edition of his own children’s classic, The Wind in the Willows, which had originally been published in 1908. This edition remains perhaps the most well-loved.
I first encountered Shepard’s drawings while visiting The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I’m not sure how to appropriately describe Shepard’s style, or what draws me to it exactly. I think perhaps it exudes nostalgia.
I can’t ever be sure, but my guess is that people seeing Shepard’s illustrations for the first time always feel that way and probably have since the books mentioned above were first published. His drawings of Pooh and others are delicate, whimsical and rather sweet. They feel very personal, like they are secret sketches done for amusement rather than publication. Moreover, they have a tendency to make you feel wistful, but that may be due to their age. It may not. Maybe Shepard knew something about childhood and the emotions it conjures in adults that Milne or Grahame knew he could capture in a way that would forever perfectly compliment their writing.