Obituary: Robin Jacques

Robin Jacques may be one of the last truly distinguished illustrators never to have had any formal training.

Born in Chelsea, the son of a professional soldier and brother to the actress Hattie Jacques, he left the Royal Masonic Schools, Bushey, in Hertfordshire, at the age of 16. Working during the day, he practised drawing in the evenings and at weekends, copying from anatomical books while also using his friends as models. Joining up with the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, he was invalided out in 1945 having served in three different countries.

Very soon he started illustrating books as well as acting as art editor for the Strand Magazine. Don Quixote, Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, Gulliver's Travels, and The Arabian Nights all benefited from his meticulous draughtsmanship. There were also frequent appearances in the Radio Times, Punch and the Listener. But in John Ryder's Artists in a Certain Line (1960), a study of leading contemporary illustrators, Jacques is quoted as believing his style had crystallised too early, leaving too little room for development. For him, the 20 years spent refining it had not been rewarding:

"I should like to stop drawing for some time and completely realign my ideas on style and approach. I love to draw but need to solve the contradiction between my ideas and my work as it is."

Such time off was never a possibility for an illustrator so constantly in demand. There was indeed a sameness about his style over the years, but when such high standards of artistry were involved few of his customers would ever wish to complain. This was particularly true of children, for whom Jacques provided the great bulk of his work. He was adept at packing an extraordinary amount of detail into a small space, so providing just the type of realism most appreciated by young readers who want to know exactly what a favourite character looked like. In his illustrations for Lynne Reid Banks's classic story The Indian in the Cupboard (1981), the two tiny feuding figures involved are perfectly realised, sometimes in the smallest of spaces on the page.

His most productive partnership in children's books was with the author Ruth Manning-Sanders and her A Book of . . . series, starting with Giants in 1962 and working their way through to Magic Adventures 21 years later. Published by Methuen, they all bore striking jacket designs in full colour. But as with his great contemporary Edward Ardizzone, Jacques's real talents were always for black-and-white drawings. Drawn with the finest of lines against backgrounds made up of innumerable swirling dots, his heroes and heroines stood out as if momentarily frozen in what they were doing. This static quality, even in the middle of otherwise violent action, was typical of Jacques's style. These were drawings over which children could always take their time, observing every detail at leisure without ever feeling rushed towards the next sequence.

The characters he created were individuals rather than types. The tough young peasants in his fairy tales refuse to be patronised, often looking out at the reader from the corners of their eyes and clearly knowing far more than they are letting on to. Stupid characters avoid any eye contact at all in their rush to get everything wrong. But their occasional ugliness was still comic rather than grotesque; there is none of the cruelty of contemporary satire in any of Jacques's drawings. Throughout his working life he worked instead towards a consistently high humanistic standard in the many children's books and fewer adult novels he illustrated right up to his death just before his 75th birthday.

Nicholas Tucker

Robin Jacques, artist and illustrator: born 27 March 1920; married 1943 Patricia Bamford (deceased), 1958 Azetta van der Merwe (deceased; one son), thirdly Alexandra Mann (marriage dissolved); died 18 March 1995.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home