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Mervyn Peake was born on
11 July 1911 in Kuling, Central Southern China [read more]
mervyn peakepeake

 

A Drawing from: Prayers and Graces. A Little Book of Extraordinary Piety.
London: victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1944.

Giclee black and white Print 11X17 Price $40.00

Sebastian

Giclee black and white Print 11X17 Price $40.00

Mervyn Peake, Illustrator
The Writings and Drawings of Mervyn Peake
Academic Editions, London & St. Martins Press. (1974) 1st. 4to [8.5X11.5 inches] Dark Blue cloth gold stamped spine. Filled with . 200 illustrations: 12 in color. Sunning of DJ spine else Fine in Fine. Bookseller Inventory # 170
Price $120.00

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mervyn peake
mervyn peake
Titus Groan: 4 Illustrations, each 10X15 inches. $70.00

 

at the summer residence of his father, a missionary doctor. In the calm following the Communist Revolution, the Peake family settled in Tientsin (now Tianjin), close to Peking. Apart from a sojourn in England during the First World War, Mervyn spent all of his early years there, so that its landscape and way of life retained a strong hold on his imaginationIn 1923, the family settled permanently in England, and Mervyn attended Eltham College, Kent where he excelled at drawing. He then studied at Croydon School of Art (1929) and the Royal Academy Schools (1929-32), where he won the Arthur Hacker Prize (1930). While still a student, he exhibited for his one and only time at the Royal Academy (1931). He then joined an artists ?Äô colony on the Channel Island of Sark, in order to write and paint. He exhibited with the group both on the island and, in 1934, in London at the Cooling Galleries.

On his return to England in 1935, Peake spent three years as a part-time teacher at the Westminster School of Art; while there, he held his first solo show, at the Calman Gallery (March 1937), and married a student of the art school, the painter Maeve Gilmore (December 1937). In 1939, he published his first book Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor, an illustrated comic fantasy. This revealed him as an illustrator with an outstanding talent for the grotesque, ready to align himself to Neo-Romantic tendencies in British art.

While serving in the army, from 1940, Peake concentrated less on painting than on writing and illustrating, and began to work on Titus Groan, the first novel of his famous Gormenghast trilogy. Following his discharge as an invalid, in 1943, he completed the novel and published his acclaimed illustrations to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1943). He was soon considered ?Äòthe greatest living illustrator ?Äô (John Watney, 1976: 121). His illustrative projects from this time include Witchcraft in England by Christina Hole (1945) and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1948) and contributions to the Radio Times and, of his own writings, Rhymes without Reason (1944) and Titus Groan (1946). In 1945, he also visited Germany for Leader magazine to record the war-time devastation, and made drawings at Belsen which profoundly affected his later work.

Peake then returned to Sark, with his family, for a period of three years (1946-9), during which he wrote Gormenghast; published in 1950, it received both the Heinemann Award for Literature and a prize from the Royal Society of Literature in the following year. The final volume of the trilogy, Titus Alone was published in 1959. Through the nineteen-fifties, he taught drawing at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. But, from the middle of the decade, he suffered from Parkinson ?Äôs disease which made his work increasingly difficult. He completed his illustrations to Balzac ?Äôs Droll Stories (1961) and his own The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb (1962) only with his wife ?Äôs help and encouragement. He died on 17 November 1968 after spending the last four years of his life in hospital.

Text Courtest Chris Beetles Gallery