George Worsley Adamson

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  • 1913 Born at 1000 E 181st Street, the Bronx, near Bronx Park, New York, USA, on February 7th. Son of George William Adamson (1882–1922), a master car builder for the Interboro-Rapid Transit Co. (IRT)/New York Railways Co., 99th St & Lexington Ave, Manhattan, and of Mary Lydia (Lily) (née Howard). His father, born in Glasgow, and his mother, born in Wigan, had moved in 1910 to New York City from Bombay.1

    Sails (on the Mauretania?) to England with his mother and older sister Marie (1911–1966) to meet his relatives in Lancashire, returning to New York on the SS Adriatic, October 3rd 1913.

  • 1922 Father dies at his home at 66 West 82nd St., New York on the morning of December 7th of heart complications (‘mitral stenosis; cardiac hypertrophy & dilatation’, according to the death certificate) and is buried two days later in the family grave at Calvary Cemetery. By 1924 Vincent and Marie, like George, are orphans.
  • 1930 Studies at the Mining and Technical College, Wigan, England. Completes University Matriculation Examination and enters Wigan School of Art part time in January, becoming full time in September, studying under L.T. Howells, ARCA, and leaving the college in December 1934. His course includes a year at Liverpool University Department of Education. Forges a lifelong friendship with Frank Pagett of Standish.
  • 1931 Acquires dual nationality, British and American.
  • 1935 Awarded the Oxford University Secondary Teachers’ Art Certificate, with distinction in Figure Composition and History of Painting.
  • 1935–1939 Enters the Liverpool City School of Art part time, specializing in engraving under the Rome scholar, Geoffrey Wedgwood, RE;3 also attends the life classes. Through his sister Dorothy, studying at Liverpool University, he meets Peggy Diamond, a fellow student. By 1936 he is working as an art master at St Edward’s College, Liverpool. On 16 July of that year he sails on the SS Orduña bound for Vigo, Galicia, Spain, with a group of young students. Owing to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Orduña has to change course. In England, at first nothing more than that is known from news agency despatches. After a worrying period of silence George cables his family to say: ‘Left Lisbon For Tilbury Unable Land Spain Impossible Write Soon All’s Well George’. In 1937 and 1939 he exhibits at the Royal Academy.
  • 1939 First of many drawings to be published in Punch. Is now working three days per week as a visiting art master in a Liverpool secondary school. A second visiting appointment is cut short by the evacuation of the school.

  • 1940-1946 Serves in the RAF; exhibits again at the Royal Academy in 1940. Becomes good friends with David N. Bungey and David Bland, fellow trainees on a flying instruction course in North America. In 1944 Adamson illustrates an article written by Bungey in the Radio Times.

  • 1943 Appointed official war artist by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), under the chairmanship of Sir Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), who was at that time director of the National Gallery, London.
  • 1944 Marries Mary Marguerita (Peg) Diamond of Millom, Cumberland.

  • 1946 Their first son, Peter, is born December 29th.
  • 1946–1953 Lectures in engraving and illustration at Exeter College of Art, Exeter, Devon, where he becomes lifelong friends with William Ruscoe, MSIA (1904–1990), who set up the Ceramics Department.
  • 1948 Exhibits two prints at the Royal Academy.
  • 1949 A second son, John, is born October 20th.4
  • 1950 Wins ‘Highly Commended’ in National European Recovery Programme (Marshall Aid) Poster Competition and ‘Honorable Mention’ in the European finals of the same competition.

  • 1959 Publishes his first cartoon in the Peterborough column of the Daily Telegraph.
  • 1960 Illustrates Ted Hughes’s first book for children, Meet My Folks! published spring 1961.
  • 1963 First of more than 200 of his drawings is published in the Nursing Times.
  • 1965 Publishes A Finding Alphabet (Faber & Faber), his first book where he does both text and illustrations.
  • 1966 Succeeds Heath Robinson as illustrator of Norman Hunter’s Professor Branestawm books.

1 Certificate of Arrival issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on Ellis Island certifies their arrival on March 27th, 1910 on SS Laurentic. Back to main text
2 Board of Trade passenger list, inwards, Liverpool, July 1921 pt 2, RMS Caronia, pp. 12 and 14, BT26/693, The National Archives, Kew. Back to main text
3 Geoffrey Heath Wedgwood was born at Leek, Staffordshire, in 1900. After serving in the army he studied at the Liverpool City School of Art from 1919 to 1921. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, studying engraving under Sir Frank Short. In 1925 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and won the Rome Prize. His plate, St. Peter’s Genoa, is characteristic of the architectural subjects he undertook as a Rome scholar. David Strang printed Wedgwood’s plates from 1922 onwards and also printed a number of Adamson’s plates. Wedgwood became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1934. He taught at the Liverpool Institute from 1932 to 1935 and at the Liverpool City School of Art (later Liverpool College of Art) from 1935 until his retirement in 1960 . He died in June 1977. See the exhibition catalogue Geoffrey Heath Wedgwood, Walker Art Gallery, February 2nd–March 4th, 1972. Back to main text
4 Ruth Wood, the illuminator, created Baptism Manuscripts for George’s two sons Peter and John featuring prayers to their patron saints. Ruth Mary Wood, NRD (1899–1980), who was one of George’s colleagues at Exeter School of Art, had become a fellow of the newly founded Society of Scribes and Illuminators in 1922. Back to main text
5 Lewis Woudhuysen, FSIAD (1912–1985) had come from the Netherlands to England as an émigré designer in 1940. Between 1934 and 1939 he had worked for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson in Amsterdam. He designed the first £50 note in Scotland for the Clydesdale Bank. When the Byrne & Woudhuysen partnership formed in 1954 came to an end in 1956, Woudhuysen & Company Ltd moved to premises in Conduit Street. Lewis served as president of the SIAD for a while in the 1970s. He was vice president (1974–1977) and treasurer (1977–1981) of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda). John Morgan, who had trained at Exeter College of Art before and after seven years’ war service in the RAF, worked with Lewis from the design group’s creation until 1971, when he returned to Exeter to teach design and set up his own studio. Back to main text
6 Punch, vol. 281, no. 7356, November 4th, 1981, p. 807. Back to main text
7 Wilfred Fairclough’s suggested new name for the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers had been adopted in 1991: the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Wilfred Fairclough RWS, RE (1907–1996) was a friend of Adamson’s for many years. He was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in 1934 and a fellow in 1946. He was Principal, Kingston College of Art 1962–1970 and Assistant Director, Kingston Polytechnic from 1970 until his retirement in 1972. Back to main text
Select Bibliography

Obituaries (national)
The Independent,  Wednesday, March 16th, 2005, p. 33
The Times,  Friday, March 18th, 2005, p. 80
The Scotsman,  Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005, p. 51
The Herald,  Thursday, March 24th, 2005, p. 16
The Guardian,  Saturday, April 2nd, 2005, p. 21

Obituaries (other)
‘Artist dies after prolific career’, Express & Echo,  Friday, March 11th, 2005, p. 16
‘Artist’s hidden work on city revealed at last’, Liverpool Daily Post,  Monday, March 14th, 2005, p. 11
‘Farewell to a man of many talents’, Wigan Observer,  Tuesday, March 15th, 2005, p. 27
‘Illustrator who graced the page’, Western Morning News,  Friday, March 18th, 2005, p. 8
Liverpool Daily Post,  Monday, March 21st 2005, p. 13
The Herald,  Glasgow, Thursday, March 24th 2005, p. 16
‘Lives Remembered: Quentin Blake writes ... ’, The Times,  Tuesday, March 22nd 2005, p. 61
‘Lives Remembered: Joe Lang writes ... ’, The Times,  Monday, March 28th 2005
‘Twinkling, quirky eye to the end’, Countryman,  vol. 111, no. 5, May, 2005, pp. 30--32
Bankside Gallery Newsletter,  May 2005, no. 3, p. 3
‘Brush strokes’, Western Daily Press: West Country Life,  May 14th, 2005, pp. 4-5
Book and Magazine Collector,  June 2005, no. 256, p. 11

General bibliography

Adamson, George (contributor), ‘Eleven Printmakers: Approaches, Opinions, Experiences’, The Journal of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers & Engravers, no. 6, 1984, pp. 18–19
Berger, Laura Standley, Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers, St. James Press, Detroit, 1995, p. 481
Bryant, Mark, Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists, Ashgate, 2000
Bryant, Mark, and Simon Heneage, Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730–1980, Scolar Press, 1994
Buckman, David, The Dictionary of Artists in Britain Since 1945, Art Dictionaries, 1998, rev. edn., 2006
Connolly, Joseph, Eighty Years of Book Cover Design, Faber and Faber, 2009
Doran, Amanda-Jane (ed.), with introduction by Miles Kington, The Punch Cartoon Album: 150 Years Classic Cartoons, Grafton Books, London, 1990
Ellis, Alec, How to Find Out about Children’s Literature, 3rd edn, Pergamon, 1973, p. 144
Fisher, Margery, Who’s Who in Children’s Books, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1975, p. 143
Folio 40: A Checklist of the Publications of the Folio Society, 1947-1987, London, The Folio Society, 1987
Greville, Charles, ‘El Ted, the matador premier’, The Daily Mail, August 24th, 1970
Holman, Jack, ‘Still lead in George’s pencil at 80’, The Western Morning News, February 13th, 1993
Hopkinson, Martin, No Day Without A Line: the history of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, 1880-1999, with a list of the Diploma Collection by Clare Tilbury, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in association with the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, p. 76
Horne, Alan J., The Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Book Illustrators, Antique Collectors’ Club, 1994
Johnson, J., and A. Greutzner, The Dictionary of British Artists, 1880–1940, Antique Collectors’ Club, 1976
Mahoney, Bertha E., et al., Illustration of Children’s Books, 1744‑1945, Horn Book Inc., Boston, 1958, 1968 and 1978 supplements (vols. 2, 3 & 4)
Peppin, Brigid, and Lucy Micklethwait, Dictionary of British Book Illustration in the 20th Century, John Murray, 1983
Private Eye at 45, The Cartoon Museum, October 2006, pp. 8 and 18
RE Printmakers’ Directory, A & C Black Publishers Ltd, February 2006, p. 3
Royal Academy Exhibitors 1905-1970, vol. 1 A-D, Hilmarton Manor Press, 1985
Sagar, Keith, The Art of Ted Hughes, Cambridge University Press, 1st edn. 1975; 2nd edn. 1978, pp. 247 and 249
Sarkissian, Adele (ed.), Children’s Authors and Illustrators: An Index to Biographical Dictionaries, Gale Research Company, Detroit, 1978
Schofield, Ernest, and Roy Conyers Nesbit, Arctic Airmen: The RAF in Spitsbergen and North Russia in 1942, William Kimber & Co Limited, 1987
Seymour, Mike & Bill Balderson: To the Ends of the Earth: 210 Squadron’s Catalina Years, Paterchurch Publications, 1999
Shaw, John Mackay, Children in Poetry, Gale Research Company, Detroit, supplements 1 & 2 (1972 & 1976)
Tabor, Stephen, and Keith Sagar, Ted Hughes: A Bibliography, 1946-1980, Mansell, 1983
Walasek, Helen (ed.), The Best of Punch Cartoons, Prion, 2008
Walasek, Helen (ed.), foreword by Griff Rhys Jones, Punch Goes to War, Prion, 2010
Walasek, Helen (ed.), foreword by Quentin Blake, The Best of Punch Cartoons in Colour, Prion, 2012
Ward, Martha E., and Dorothy A. Marquardt, Illustrators of Books for Young People, 2nd edn, Scarecrow Press Inc., 1975
Watson, V., Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books in English, Cambridge University Press, 2001
Who’s Who in Art, Hilmarton Manor Press, 2004, p. 5

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