Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886)

The Honeysuckle Hedge, 1883

Randolph Caldecott was one of the most famous Victorian illustrators, despite having rather a short working life. He was born in Chester, and taught himself drawing as a child. His father, a businessman, discouraged him from pursuing art as a career, and enrolled him as a bank clerk in Shropshire. He nevertheless continued drawing, and after some seven years, his first published drawings appeared in a Manchester paper. He began to illustrate for various journals, and in 1872 went to London, studying at the Slade School under Poynter. His career took off the following year with his illustrations for Washington Irving's Old Christmas, and Bracebridge Hall in 1874. From that year he was taken on by The Graphic, and he also made many pictures for Punch and other magazines. In 1876 the first of his Toy Books appeared, which were among the most popular of their type. In 1885 he made an ill fated trip to America for the sake of his health. After a difficult voyage, he became sick and died in Florida at the age of 40.

Caldecott's illustrations are widespread enough that books and magazines - especially Punch - containing examples of his work may be found without difficulty. Of his paintings, a very small one called The Girl I Left Behind Me is at Manchester. A selection of his work is on permanent show at the Heritage Centre, Whitchurch.

From a Randolph Caldecott web site.

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Caldecott, Randolph

Caldecott, Randolph (1846-1886), English artist and illustrator, considered a pioneer in the creation of picture books for children. Born in Chester, Cheshire, England, as a child Caldecott made artwork depicting natural scenes, especially animals. From 1861 to 1867 he worked at a bank in Whitchurch, Shropshire; he then transferred to a bank in Manchester and began attending the Manchester School of Art as an evening student. In 1872 Caldecott moved to London, where he enrolled in the Slade School and worked as a freelance artist and illustrator of books and periodicals.

Caldecott first gained recognition in 1875 when his illustrations were published in Old Christmas by American writer Washington Irving. Soon afterward, Edmund Evans, an English printer and engraver, approached Caldecott about collaborating on a series of picture books for children. Caldecott chose well-known stories, rhymes, and songs as the texts for these books, and in 1878 he and Evans published The House That Jack Built and The Diverting History of John Gilpin. After that, Caldecott and Evans produced two picture books each Christmas season until Caldecott's death. The most popular of these books include Sing a Song of Sixpence (1880), Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting (1882), A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go (1883), and Ride a Cock-Horse to Banbury Cross (1884). Caldecott earned praise for his depictions of people, animals, and the English countryside; for the humor in his artwork; and for his ability to convey movement and action from page to page. Caldecott also illustrated the texts of others including Some of Aesop's Fables with Modern Instances (1883), a version of the fables translated from the original Greek by his brother Alfred Caldecott.

In 1937 American publisher Frederic G. Melcher asked the American Library Association to create an annual award honoring the most distinguished picture book published in the United States each year. The award was named the Caldecott Medal in honor of Randolph Caldecott.

Contributed By:
Susan Pine
Materials Specialist, Office of Children's Services, New York Public Library.

"Caldecott, Randolph," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001
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For further information see the web site: http://www.randolphcaldecott.org.uk/index.htm