Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rene Cloke (1905 - 1995)

Rene Cloke first came to my attention when I was researching the artists affiliated with Great Britain’s Medici Society, an art publishing company started in London in 1908. Although widely known for her depictions of fairies, sprites, pixies, and elves, she also painted many illustrations of dressed or anthropomorphic animals for greeting cards, postcards, annuals, and books, some of which she herself authored.

Rene Cloke was born Irene Mabel Neighbour Cloke in Plymouth, Devon on October 8, 1904 (or, variously, October 4, 1905), although she spent most of her life in London. The daughter of a bank manager, she was a shy child who passed many hours sketching. Her first employment after graduating was illustrating an educational series, The Radiant Way, for the Edinburgh publishers, W & R Chambers, a firm that played a leading role in pioneering inexpensive but quality literature for middle and working class readers during the 19th and 20th centuries. While illustrating cards for the above-mentioned Medici Society, she was also associated with another Scottish printing company, James Valentine & Sons (variously, The Valentine Company), whose primary focus was lithographic postcards. In addition to greeting cards and postcards, Cloke was an extremely prolific book illustrator. She illustrated many books by Enid Blyton - one of the most successful British children's storytellers of the twentieth century -  including Naughty Amelia Jane, The Three Golliwogs, the Mr. Meddle and Mr. Pink-Whistle series, and the Everyday Book series. Among the better known tales she illustrated were Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Hans Andersen Fairy Tales, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Brer Rabbit Stories by Joel Chandler Harris, several Bible stories, and many more. She herself authored and illustrated numerous books including Woodland Stories, Before We Go to Bed, Rene Cloke's Bedtime Book of Fairytales and Rhymes, ABC and Counting Book, My First Picture Book series, and retellings of well-known tales such as Cinderella , Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Puss in Boots, and others. In addition, she continued to produce illustrations for the many annual publications, including Uncle Oojah's Big Annual, Blackie's Children's Annual, Tiny Tots Annual, Jack and Jill Annual, Playhour Annual, and Harold Hare Book.
During World War II, Cloke worked for the BritishWar Office as a tracer, producing maps from photographs for use by the Royal Air Force. After the war, she resumed her career in writing children's books and card and book illustration. In the late 50’s, she moved to London, residing at 31 Bernard Gardens, Wimbledon SW19. She continued to work until just four months before her death on October 1, 1995, at age 91.

If you would like to see my own cute animal illustrations and various products - mousepads, mugs, postage stamps, stickers, buttons, and more - featuring them, please click here.