Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886)

The Honeysuckle Hedge, 1883

Randolph Caldecott was one of the most famous Victorian illustrators, despite having rather a short working life. He was born in Chester, and taught himself drawing as a child. His father, a businessman, discouraged him from pursuing art as a career, and enrolled him as a bank clerk in Shropshire. He nevertheless continued drawing, and after some seven years, his first published drawings appeared in a Manchester paper. He began to illustrate for various journals, and in 1872 went to London, studying at the Slade School under Poynter. His career took off the following year with his illustrations for Washington Irving's Old Christmas, and Bracebridge Hall in 1874. From that year he was taken on by The Graphic, and he also made many pictures for Punch and other magazines. In 1876 the first of his Toy Books appeared, which were among the most popular of their type. In 1885 he made an ill-fated trip to America for the sake of his health. After a difficult voyage, he became sick and died in Florida at the age of 40.

Caldecott's illustrations are widespread enough that books and magazines - especially Punch - containing examples of his work may be found without difficulty. Of his paintings, a very small one called The Girl I Left Behind Me is at Manchester. A selection of his work is on permanent show at the Heritage Centre, Whitchurch.

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