Shepard’s Christmas by James Campbell – Thursday 7th December 2023

Ernest H Shepard was an artist, illustrator and cartoonist whose illustrations to A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” and Kenneth Graham’s “Wind in the Willows” are the most well-known and enduring of all his works.

James Campbell, lecturer and author of two books on E. H. Shephard’s life and illustrations gave us a humorous and entertaining lecture on a much broader view of E.H. Shepard’s work, from his cartoons for Punch and the IIlustrated London News, to his many Christmas cards (some 350 a year) which he sent out initially as a kind of self-promoting publicity. James showed us a number of original pencil and pen and ink  Christmas cards that Shepard sent out over the years, where his dexterity and artistry  express Christmas in unconventional ways.

Ernest H. Shepard was born in London on December 1879 to a prosperous middle class artistic and literary family who all loved and celebrated Christmas. He showed early promise as an artist while at St Paul’s School and went on to study first at Heatherley’s and then the Royal Academy School of Art where he won the Lutyens prize. Not only was he  amazingly versatile in his drawing and art work and built up a good free-lance career as an illustrator and cartoonist,  but he was also very generous with his time and talent, designing for instance, a most successful Christmas card for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital for free which helped to bring in much needed funds to the hospital.

He fought with distinction during WW1 gaining the Military Cross, all the while sending cartoons back to Punch magazine.  After the war in 1923 he was approached to illustrate a book of verse by A. A. Milne “When we were very young” which proved so successful that he was commissioned to illustrate all of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books thereafter. Later, Kenneth Graham was delighted with Shepard’s illustrations for his book “The Wind in the Willows” (1908) which were published in the 1931 edition.

From 1935 into the 1950s, Ernest Shepard was the chief political cartoonist for Punch Magazine and often brought the lighter side of life to his political drawings, which also included amusing Christmas cartoons each year.

E.H.Shepard drew in many different artistic styles which changed over the years, developing fewer background details and more emphasis on the main characters. He continued to work right up to the end of his life, all the while living quietly on Martha’s Hill, near Guildford. He died in 1976 at the ripe old age 97.


Liz Beecheno