Painting with Ink
Pauline Baynes (1922 - 2008):
Interior Decorating for the Artist
Pauline Baynes (1922 - 2008):Artist Spotlight
by Giovanna Adams
Pauline Baynes (September 9, 1922- August 1, 2008): "A Palette of Middle Earth and Narnia"
Pauline Baynes was a prolific painter and designer who provided exquisitely detailed illustrations for numerous books and magazines, but she will always be associated with the work she did in the 1950s for author C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
It was on the recommendations of J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Farmer Giles of Ham she had illustrated in 1949, that Baynes received the commission from Lewis. She was only in her mid-twenties, but her role in creating Narnia was a lifelong passion. She worked on them again almost half a century later for a commemorative edition. In a 2006 interview by Tanya Edwards, Pauline mentioned that she still received mail from all round the world from people who are largely unaware that she had ever illustrated anything else, “I think it is the fate of the illustrator. Look at Ernest Shepard. He was so brilliant and did so much fine work, but people only associate him with Pooh and Piglet. It is the penalty of hitching your wagon star.”(1)
Her early years were spent in India, where her father was commissioner in the Indian Civil Service. At the age of 5, she and her elder sister came to England for their schooling. Pauline attended the Slade School of Fine Art, but after a year she made demonstration models for instruction with the Ministry of Defense. She was soon transferred to a map-making department. That knowledge was later used to good effect in drawing maps of Narnia for C.S. Lewis and of Middle-Earth for J.R.R. Tolkien (2).
Among the other books that Pauline’s drawings enhanced were Tolkien’s The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Wotton Major, his Poems and Stories and the single volume paperback edition of the cover to The Lord of the Rings. She also illustrated the cover of the bestselling Puffin edition of Richard Adams’s Watership Down.
Pauline worked in gouache, pen and ink and dry brush. Her passion was for detail. She was also a highly proficient designer, creating borders partly so that her figure could burst out of them. Among the finest and most inventive of Baynes’s illustrations are those she painted for various selections from The Arabian Nights, which -- like those she did for Rosemary Harris’s The Enchanted Horse (1982) -- drew upon her love and wide knowledge of Persian and Indian miniatures. Equally impressive was her work on Grant Uden’s A Dictionary of Chivalry (1968), which took her two and a half years to complete and which won her a Kate Greenaway Medal. Her accuracy was such that when the 600 or so illustrations were submitted to the scrutiny of a heraldry expert only one alteration was requested: a knight was found to be holding his lance incorrectly. She readily admitted her few weaknesses as an artist: “I can’t draw anything modern,” she once said. “I’m not very good at buildings, and if you asked me to I couldn’t draw a liner or a train.” (3)
Pauline devoted herself to her drawing, leading a peaceful life of solitude as she lived in a cottage near her parents. In 1961 her solitude was interrupted by a knock on the door from the local dog-meat man, an ex-German prisoner-of-war called Fritz Otto Gasch. Within weeks of meeting, he and Pauline married. When Fritz died suddenly in 1988, the shock made her lose large chunks of her memory. "I can hardly remember anything about our time together. Fortunately, I had my work to keep me busy." This was the second personal blow Baynes received; the other was the early death from cancer of her sister, from which, friends felt, she never really recovered. (4)
According to her friend Brian Sibley, "Pauline had a ceaselessly inquiring mind and energetically debated every topic imaginable. She could be sharply critical and quixotically changeable; she never suffered fools gladly, sniffed out cant and hypocrisy in a second and enjoyed nothing better than the kind of conversation which could veer from total seriousness to helpless laughter. Her sharp, dry wit remained with her through the year and her ready laughter tended to be both prolonged and infectious." By 2008, increasingly frail but fiercely independent, she continued to work right up until her death on August 1. "Everything else," she said, "seems somehow a waste of time." (5)
1) Gale Literary Databases. "Pauline (Diana) Bates." Contemporary Authors. 24 September, 2002.
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