Alfred Bestall (1892-1986) trained at London Central School of Art before the first world war. His work appeared in Boys and Girls Annual in the mid thirties and in Punch and Tatler magazines but he is best known for his illustrations for Rupert Bear strip in the Daily Express newspaper from 1935, taking over from it’s 1920’s creator Mary Tourtel. He also drew and wrote 41 volumes of the Rupert Bear Annual. There is now a new 352 page book, The Life and Works of Alfred Bestall, Illustrator of Rupert Bear by Caroline Bott, publisher Bloomsbury available for £20. That both Caroline Bott and I felt it necessary to include Rupert in the title indicates that Rupert’s name is better known than that of his artist. Rupert Bear is now something of an industry but Bestall’s work is still by far and away it’s high point, his drawing the iconic ones.
My own feelings about the Rupert stories are mixed. As a child reader from my background and experience in the 40s’ and 50s’ they seemed to me to be distanced in both class and time - too middle class and rather old fashioned. Even now while recognising the clear sweet line and colour of the very attractive art they still fail to engage apart from a nostalgia for times past. Judging from the life span and continued popularity of the character, I am in a minority in this. But don't allow my hangups discourage your looking - Bestall really was a terrific illustrator.
Guardian Review January 8th.
Chambers Biographical Dictionary 2001.