We’re loving these two issues. I never really read Rupert Bear (3rd September), but I did always love the drawings – the colours are so vibrant. I also like the fact that he’s still going! And the Brilliant Bugs (1st October) drawings are so delicate; they’re beautiful.
Mary Tourtel created Rupert Bear, whose simple charms have entranced generations of children and adults alike ever since.
Born Mary Caldwell in 1874, she was the youngest child of a stonemason and a stained-glass artist. She studied art under Thomas Sidney Copper at the Sidney Cooper School of Art in Canterbury (now the University for the Creative Arts) and became a children’s book illustrator.
In 1900, she married an assistant editor of The Daily Express, Herbert Bird Tourtel. Rupert Bear was created in 1920, at a time when the Express was in competition with The Daily Mail and its then popular comic strip Teddy Tail, as well as the strip Pip, Squeak and Wilfred in The Daily Mirror.
The then news editor of the Express, Herbert Tourtel, was approached with the task of producing a new comic strip to rival those of the Mail and Mirror and immediately thought of his wife Mary: already an established author and artist.
Rupert Bear was the result and was first published as a nameless character in a strip titled Little Lost Bear on 8 November 1920.
The early strips were illustrated by Mary and captioned by her husband, Herbert, and were published as two cartoons a day with a short story underneath. Rupert was originally cast as a brown bear until the Express cut inking expenses giving him his iconic and characteristic white colour
Richard Lewington was introduced to insects and butterflies through both his father and his grandfather. As a boy, Lewington used to draw birds, but it wasn’t until he graduated from Berkshire College of Art and Design, that he began illustrating insects. Lewington is a freelance illustrator, and the very first book he contributed to was the Reader’s Digest Book of the Countryside, in the 1970s, not long after he had left college. His earliest influences was Frederick William Frohawk (an English zoological artist who was the author of Natural History of British Butterflies), and then later on, Lewington would draw inspiration from his visits to the Natural History Museum.
Did you know?
• Rupert’s official title is Rupert Bear, not Rupert the Bear.
• Rupert started life wearing grey checked trousers and a blue jumper.
• Rupert Bear Annuals were the only books to be published throughout the war years 1939-1945, despite there being a paper shortage during that time. It was thought that to have scrapped Rupert during that period would have been detrimental to the British morale!
• When Mary Tourtel retired in 1935, both the Rupert storylines and illustrations were taken over by Welsh artist, Alfred Bestall.
• Since 1920, there have only been 5 different illustrators and 6 different authors for Rupert Bear.
• Richard Lewington first became interested in entomology as a child when he inherited a cabinet of insects from his father.
• Lewington does butterfly tours in various countries around Europe.
• Lewington has a brother, Ian, who is also an artist. Both featured in an episode of Autumnwatch in 2017.
• Much of Richard Lewington’s artwork takes a couple of days to complete.