Artist and illustrator Pauline Diana Baynes was born in Hove, East Sussex, on 9 September, 1922. She grew up in Agra, India, where her father worked as a commissioner for the Indian Civil Service. Her summers were spent at the hill station of Mussoorie and she would recall stories from this time, including those of the family’s pet monkey, who was trained to take tiffin at the tea table. These fond memories soon dissipated when the family returned to England and Pauline and her sister Angela spent the remainder of their schooldays at a convent; where strict and unsympathetic nuns mocked her outlandish imagination; her handmade, if slightly eccentric clothes; and her ability to speak Hindi.
However, Pauline’s life improved immeasurably when aged 15, she spent two terms studying design at the Farnham School of Art, before following her sister to the Slade Art School, in Oxford. Her vision was clear. She wanted to illustrate children’s books, but in 1940 her education was cut short by the demands of WW2 work, first for the Army’s camouflage development department at Farnham Castle, and later drawing maps and naval charts for the Admiralty in Bath.
- She became friendly with Ernest Shepard, illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh books, who took her to London to show her portfolio to his editor at the Illustrated London News. But her real breakthrough came in 1948, when drawings from her portfolio, which had been sent on the off-chance to George Allen & Unwin, were spotted by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Tolkien was visiting his publisher to discuss some disappointing artwork that they had commissioned for his novella Farmer Giles of Ham, when he spotted, lying on a desk, some witty reinterpretations of medieval marginalia from the Luttrell Psalter that greatly appealed to him. These, it turned out, had been sent “on spec” by Pauline. Through her agent, Tolkien asked Pauline to illustrate his novella and he was delighted with the subsequent results. Further collaborations between the two developed into a lifelong friendship.
In fact, these collaborations led to a commission to illustrate C.S. Lewis’s Narnia book series. Subsequently, Pauline’s extensive output was to include many Puffin book covers, including those for Richard Adams’s Watership Down and for the 1961 paperback version of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
It was also in 1961, whilst living a secluded life in a cottage with her dogs for company, that Pauline met a former ex-German PoW who had been with Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Within weeks of meeting Fritz Otto Gasch, the pair married. They remained a devoted couple until Gasch’s sudden death in 1988. Then two years later, Pauline received a message from Gasch’s daughter by his first, pre-WW2 marriage and the two became fond friends.
- Over her lifetime Pauline illustrated more than 100 books.
- She felt that her finest were for Grant Uden’s Dictionary of Chivalry, a production that occupied her for two full years and for which she was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1968.
- Pauline kept up her illustrative work even though her later books struggled to find a publisher.
- When she died at the age of 85, on 1 August, 2008 she was half-way through a very colorful illustrative work for an edition of Aesop’s Fables.
The images here are from Beauty and the Beast, a collection of French fairy tales by Princess de Beaumont.
- For further information see the Pauline Baynes tribute site.
“Is It Art?”