Monday, 16 December 2019

John Hassall - part 1

Hassall, John (1868–1948) was born in Walmer, Kent, UK. Hassall's father, who had served in the fleet at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, was paralysed as the result of an accident on his ship and died at the age of thirty-eight. His mother remarried; her second husband was an officer in the Royal Marines at Chatham who later became General Sir William Purvis Wright John Hassall. In 1888 John Hassall and his brother Owen were sent on a cattle boat to a ranch in Minnedosa, Manitoba, Canada, to study farming. The two years that he spent there were vital to the development of his imagination and personality. For a time he acted as pathfinder to a group of Sioux.

Hassall occupied his spare time with sketching, and his efforts were so much admired that he sent some pen drawings depicting a Manitoba ‘surprise party’ to the Daily Graphic, which published them in 1890. He returned home and was sent by his mother to the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp, where he worked under Piet van Havermaet and his son Charles. He studied there for two years, spending six months in Paris at the Académie Julian. In 1893, while abroad he married a fellow student, Isabel Dingwall.

Hassall returned to London, where he made his first appearance at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1894 with two large paintings which were hung ‘on the line’. Meanwhile, his drawings were appearing in The Sketch, Pick-Me-Up, and other papers. In 1895, in answer to a recruiting circular issued by David Allen & Sons, the printers, Hassall entered on a career which lasted for fifty years, earning the title of ‘The Poster King’ and, in 1939, the grant of a civil-list pension for his services to poster art. When he began, poster advertising as an art was in its infancy. His work was humourous, robust, and simple, with a direct advertising message which nevertheless attained a high standard of decorative art.

In 1901 Hassall was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, and in 1903 was elected President of the London Sketch Club. Also in 1903, his first wife having died in 1900, he married Constance Maud Webb, the daughter of the Revd. Albert Brooke Webb, rector of Dallinghoe, Wickham Market, Suffolk. In 1905 he opened an art school in London, whose students were to include the cartoonist H. M. Bateman.

Hassall was working at this time as a successful illustrator of children's books.  He also helped Baden-Powell to design the uniform for the Boy Scouts. His famous “Jolly Fisherman” tourist poster dates from this period. The poster was still in use after his death and remains an instantly recognisable image.

1908 G.N.R. (Great northern Railway)
"Skegness is SO Bracing"
lithographic poster 207 x 134.5 cm

During the First World War he was a special constable in London, and frequently appeared at charity shows, where over 3000 of his drawings were auctioned. In later years he illustrated the works of several British poets, Imcluding Robert Burns, William Dunbar, John Donne, and William Wordsworth.

During his holidays at Walton on the Naze, Essex, Hassall
accumulated one of the largest private collections of prehistoric flint implements, which substantially contributed to the archaeological history of East Anglia. John Hassall died at his home, 88 Kensington Park Road, London, on 8 March 1948; he was survived by his second wife.

This is part 1 of an 11-part series on the works of John Hassall:

1899 Bachelor Ballads, and other lazy lyrics 
illustrated by J. Hassall 
published by Greening & Co., London:

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