"If there ever comes a day when we can't be together keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever."
Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh
Milne’s musings were vibrant to the adventurous reader and they required an eloquent artist that could bring the venturesome personalities to existence visually. Milne was a rising freelance author who was inspired by watching his son, Christopher Robin, playing with his stuffed toys one evening. Milne pondered about writing a book of children’s verses to reflect upon his son and his muses. The verses manifested into the first book in a series of delightful stories 'When We Were Very Young,’ which was published in 1924. Milne was impressed by the illustrations of Earnest Shepard, a well know illustrator whose artistic works were highlighted for amusing the audiences of Punch magazine. Punch, a renown British magazine that focused on humor and satire of current affairs (the magazine’s perceptions of humor are now considered racist and demeaning to the Irish and Black African population of the United Kingdom).
Earnest Shepard published his illustrations for the works of A. A. Milne’s poetry and Winnie-the-Pooh series under the name E.H. Shepard. Shepard was born December10, 1879, in London, England and died March 24, 1976, in Sussex, England. His father was an architect who inspired him to draw at a very young age. Shepard’s primary studies were at St. Paul’s School in London England, were his teacher’s took note of a very artistic young man. He continued his studies Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, were he spent one year fine tuning his talents. From there he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools. While at the academy, Shepard focused his talents on sculpture and watercolor painting, which one day led to his notoriety. It would be during his time in one of the academy’s smaller studios he would met his wife, Florence. Shepard and his wife had two children, a son who they named Graham born in 1907 and daughter named Mary born in 1909. The couple had a lovely marriage until Florence’s unexpected death in 1927.
After the time of his beloved wife’s death, Shepard submersed himself even further into his work. He focused on the mediums of watercolor and ink. Between 1920 and 1940, Shepard illustrated a total of 34 books, the bulk of his production was after 1927. Other illustrating endeavors unrelated to Milne included; The Wind in the Willows, Perfume from Provence, and The Reluctant Dragon. Unlike Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne and Shepard were not the best of friends. Milne was always “pleased” with Shepard’s ink and watercolor illustrations but Shepard was often frustrated with Milne’s approach to collaborating their talents. Shepard once stated during an interview "I always had to start again at the beginning with Milne, every time I met him.” Contrary to popular folk tales regarding Shepard’s inspiration for the design of Winnie-the-Pooh did not come from a former dancing bear named Winnie, who lived in the London Zoo that the Milne family would regularly visit or inspired by Christopher Robin’s stuffed toy. The illustrations were reflective of his son Graham’s adored stuffed bear, Grower. Despite the lack of synchronicity between the two creative initiators the legacy of Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and all the friends who dwelled within the Hundred Acre Wood will be as sweet in the hearts of its readers as honey is to a bear with a “rumbly tummy.”
—Barbara Anne Doucette
Barbara Anne Doucette is a mixed media artist and crafter currently living in Western New York.