Lawrence Housman (1865-1959)

Illustration by Lawrence Housman.

The illustrator, author and poet Laurence Housman was born in Bromsgrove, one of seven children (the eldest brother was A. E. Housman). He had a difficult childhood - his mother died when he was a young child, and the family lived in some degree of poverty. In 1882 he went with his sister Clemence Housman to Lambeth, where he studied at the City and Guilds Art School (not sure how this relates if at all to the Lambeth School of Art - any comments welcome?). Following this, he studied at South Kensington from 1887, and started book illustration in the following year. Early work appeared in a magazine called the Universal Review, then he illustrated books by George Meredith, Christina Rossetti (Goblin Market), and then two books of his own fairy stories in the mid-1890s - A House of Joy and A Farm in Fairyland, and later illustrated The Field of Clover. He stayed very close to his sister Clemence, who engraved for him, the pair finally settling in Street, Somerset in the 1920s. Both lived to an advanced age, she dying in 1955, he a few years later at the age of 95. As well as the illustration and poetry, Housman wrote a book on the artist Boyd Houghton, and did bookbinding.

Housman was a disciple of Ricketts (whom he know at Lambeth), and above all of Rossetti. As well, some of his work is akin to the black and white work of Burne-Jones, as found in the Kelmscott Press books. Most of his illustrations are of girls, elves, and mythological scenes, and in his compositions, he had a particular interest in dappled effects of light and shade.

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