Mabel Lucie Atwell

Lucie Atwell

1879 - 1964
Mabel Lucie Attwell was a British illustrator. She was known for her cute, nostalgic drawings of children, based on her daughter, Peggy. Her drawings are featured on many postcards, advertisements, posters, books and figurines. She lived at Ocklynge Manor in Mill Road, Eastbourne during the 1930s.

ROLE

Illustrator and author

EARLY LIFE & EDUCATION

Mabel Lucie Attwell (4 June 1879 – 5 November 1964) was born in London’s East End to a large family. Her father was a strict Victorian and in a large family where she was not a favoured child,  her childhood would have been lacking in warmth.  She was brought up in quite an eccentric yet progressive home and by the time she was 16 she had sold some of her illustrations to enable her to continue her education at Saint Martin’s School of Art.  It was here she met her future husband, Harold Cecil Earnshaw,  emotionally the complete opposite of her father.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Lucie was famous for her cute, nostalgic drawings of children, based on her daughter, Peggy yet she was drawing from a very early age as an antidote to her harsh childhood. She was able to escape and imagine a world around her that was more forgiving and loving.  She was never out of work and she made illustrations for all the major publishers.  She even designed a poster for the London Underground in 1906.  Perhaps her best known works though were the illustrations for a gift book version of Peter Pan and Wendy, The Water Babies, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales and possibly most famously Alice In Wonderland. Her drawings are featured on many postcards, advertisements, posters, books and figurines and are still in demand, although less so, today.  It was during the World Wars that her illustrations were particularly valuable in promoting community endeavour and resilience.  The humour she could bring to her works meant that even the most jaded of individuals suffering the worst adversity could find some comfort.

She was also an author, inventing her own story book tales – the Boo Boos stories in the 1920s and travelled alone to visit the Queen of Romania in Bucharest  in 1922, leaving her husband and children behind.  This would have been quite radical for the age but reflected her fierce independence.  The Royal connections continued when in 1937 Princess Margaret ordered a personalized Christmas card, and Mabel Lucie’s china was used in Royal nurseries from 1949.  Her works continue to be used.

To read Jackie’s full research click here

RESEARCHERS VIEW

I thought I did not know Mabel Attwell at the point of taking on this research.  As I began I hunted for something that she had illustrated and found the book ‘Lucie Attwell’s Gold Star Book of Rhymes’.  As I opened the pages I felt the tug of memory.  These illustrations were familiar to me and the realisation that I had indeed grown up, turning the pages of this very book. Very fascinating as early trauma had parted me from many childhood memories.

However, for why she is the only female in Eastbourne to have a ‘Blue Plaque’ bestowed on her is somewhat of a mystery and I personally feel a little cheated.  What was her contribution to Eastbourne, what was her link?  It feels like achievement has once again been attributed to wealth and fame, a bit like pinning your bets on somebody after you know they are a winner.  I admire Mabel Lucie Attwell for her unmistakable talent, longevity, tenacity and a woman of independent means who forged a life as a mother and wife and career in a time when women simply were not encouraged to do so.  Is she deserving of a Blue Plaque – yes, definitely but is Eastbourne worthy of her and her plaque?

Jackie Stewart

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A list of her publications

The Boo-Boos Series, Valentine, 1921-22.
• Lucie Attwell’s Annual, Partridge, 1922-1926.
• Baby’s Book, Raphael Tuck, 1922.
• Lucie Attwell’s Children’s Book, Dean, 1927-1932.
• Lucie Attwell’s Annual, Dean, 1933-1974.
• Lucie Attwell’s Painting Books, Dean, 1934.
• Lucie Attwell’s Great Big Midget Books, Dean, 1934-35.
• Story Books, Dean, 1943-45.
• Jolly Book, 1953.
• Nursery Rhymes Pop-up Book, 1958.
• Book of Verse, 1960.
• Book of Rhymes, Dean, 1962.

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