The top two pictures are by an artist called Nicolas Bentley – note the spelling – it’s important! I trip over his work whenever looking at 1940s or 1950s magazines. He stands out because of his comical characters drawn with no shading or shadows to speak of. When he uses solid blacks they are not usually anywhere near the characters’ faces. His quirky signature also stands out when it appears on his work. For this post, I had a little rummage around on the net to see who he was, and lo and behold, a real character emerged!
Nicolas Clerihew Bentley (14 June 1907 – 14 August 1978) decided to drop the ‘h’ from his first name worked in a circus, was no good at academic or unbelievably art studies! However his famous godfather, G. K. Chesterton encouraged him in his work and published his first commercial work. His career sounds so fascinating I’m surprised I’ve never really tripped over the details before. The London Transport Museum mentions his peers “With colleagues Rex Whistler, Edward Ardizzone and John Betjeman, he was responsible for the ‘Shell Guide’ series, first published in 1933.” He himself spoke of his art thus: ” Experience has taught me the value of making a minute observation of appearances. Particularly is that true of the comic artist. […] The human species lends itself readily to the more superficial forms of caricature.” I think I’d like to have met this man! The excellent British Cartoon Archive has a biography and a photo of the gentleman, and sure enough he looks extremely happy with his lot! It’s easy to find his work all over the Net – Search Google images and Chris Mullen has a sample of some of his art and books.