May 7 to May 23 2008
An exhibition in Conjunction with the UK Randolph Caldecott society of this famous Victorian children’s book illustrator. Link: Randolph Caldecott
Randolph Caldecott was born in Bridge Street, one of Chester’s unique ‘rows’. His father was a hatter and sent his soon to the King’s school where he was elected head boy.
From a young age he roamed the countryside drawing country life and pursuits and making wood carvings and clay models. In 1861 he witnesses the fire at the Queen Railway hotel, Chester. He drew it and sent it to the Illustrated London News. This became his first published work. Aged 15 he was sent to work at Whitchurch 20 miles from Chester. He took up hunting, shooting and fishing from which he drew inspiration for his drawings. At this time he began his life long style of correspondence, including humorous sketches in his letters for the amusement of the recipient. Many of these charming letters exist today.
He was described as tall, handsome, with light brown hair, grey eyes and charming disposition. In 1867 he obtained a better job in a bank in Manchester. Here he studied art in the evenings and joined the Brasenose Club where he met other artists. His drawings were published in a comic paper called “Will o’ the Wisp” in 1868, and in 1869 he exhibited at the Manchester Institution.
He realised that London was the place for an aspiring artist and gained an introduction to Thomas Armstrong, a London interior decorator, who in turn introduced him to the editor of Punch, and publications followed. Armstrong also showed Caldecott’s drawings to “London Society’s” Henry Blackburn and publications started in 1871. His work was now appearing alongside that of eminent artists such as Du Maurier, Poynter and Millais. Blackburn selected drawings from Caldecott which were engraved by the master printer J D Cooper, who was to become critical to Caldecott’s eventual success as an illustrator.
In 1872, at the age of 26, Caldecott decided to risk all and moved to London.