Home Notes: Ernest Ratcliff

In flicking through loads of 40s and 50s magazines I come across so many nice single illustrations that I like to share. If you follow this blog you’ll know how frustrating it is not to know anything about artists who produce beautiful work. Ernest Ratcliff is another one. I find he illustrated the comic strip ‘Lindy’ in the London Evening News, Rick Random and the Mystery of the Knights of Space (Super Detective 139, November 1958), a Robin Hood book , a 50s detective story cover and as early as 1939 depiction of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. These jobs were often not liked by artists as there was little scope for any variation from the talking heads. However I loved this scene (and more Home Notes to follow)

Home Notes 16 February 1951 page 34

Home Notes 16 February 1951 page 34

Everybody’s Weekly – Edwin Phillips

The lovely Illustration Art Gallery (run by Geoff West) has a page of Edwin Phillips’ art for sale, and the Advertising Archives have several colour pictures . His photo-realistic style and use of colour were ideal for the time when colour illustrations were few and far between and photography was beginning to take over in popular weeklies in the UK

The pictures reproduced below are taken from Everybody’s Weekly. No biography could be found for Edwin Phillips! It constantly drives me mad that despite their popularity these artists were work-for-hire and most times not even credited. Anyway, enjoy these.


Everybody's Weekly 24 January 1953 page24

Everybody's Weekly 24 January 1953 page24


Everybody's Weekly 7 February 1953 page 24 "A comdey in rubber" by O Henry

Everybody's Weekly 7 February 1953 page 24 "A comdey in rubber" by O Henry



Everybody's Weekly 20 September 1952 page 27

Everybody's Weekly 20 September 1952 page 27

Everybody’s Weekly: Fred Exell

Everybody’s was an extremely popular publication that included some superb illustrators and illustrations. This particular artist struck me for his ‘scratchy’ pen work. When flicking through this title, one sees clear line work with strong brush strokes, but Frederick Robert Exell’s work appears almost sketchy, or engraved.

Everybody's Weekly 29 December 1951Everybody’s Weekly 29 December 1951

Very little is known about him. Even the extensive, but in my opinion, flawed The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators by Alan Horne (published by Antique Collectors’ Club Ltd 1999), says little beyond a short list that can be retrieved from book sites on the Internet. One entry found mentions he might have been born 1923. It is known that along with many fellow illustrators of the time that he did illustrations for the Radio Times as the  Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: Twentieth Century by Peppin and Micklewait mentions as well as the fact he was a lecturer at St Martin’s School of Art. Any list of books illustrated by him will include all the usual multi-interpreted classics.


I’ve received today (29 September 2020) a lovely email from Jeff Neely (from Florida) which added some biographical details:

I came across your Visual Rant regarding Frederick Robert( Bob) Exell. As you mentioned, not a lot is known about him. I can tell you that he is my Wife’s 1st Cousin twice removed (two generations). He was born on June 28th 1923 in Greenwich and died in on 5 April of 1999 near Gravesend, Kent. He was the son of Frederick William Exell and Roberta Purvis Dryden. His father was an Inspector (CID 2nd Class) in the Metropolitan Police Department from 1919 – 1942. His Grandfather, Walter J. Exell, also served on the Metropolitan Police Department and retired from there before settling down in Eynsford, Kent. Frederick also had a brother names Peter Walter James Exell. He was born on Feb 7 1928 and died on Feb 14 2018 in Croydon. Neither brother ever married or had Children. Bob did teach art locally at St Martins as you know. We don’t know a lot more about him.

Jeff continued:

Bob did make illustrations for a number of publications. I purchased one of his illustrations a year ago (see attached image) from a London Area company to keep for posterity. This image appeared in a Look and Learn which he did a number of drawings for over the years. He also illustrated a version of Moby Dick which a relative has in their collection.

And he shared the image below – more of which are here

Everybody's Weekly 21 February 1953 p16Everybody’s Weekly 21 February 1953

Look & Learn 596 (16 June 1973)

Henry Boltinoff and London Opinion

Boltinoff at London Opinion 1939 December pp32-33

You don’t normally expect to see an American appearing in London Opinion.  Take a look at the right hand cartoon. Whose is the signature? Yes, it certainly looks too much like Henry Boltinoff – especially with the characteristic underlining – not to be him. Now, if you don’t know who he is, you didn’t read Superman comics in the 1950s and 1960s. His cartoons from these comics have been beautifully reproduced at Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics.

Henry Boltinoff (February 19, 1914 – April 19, 2001) was an American cartoonist born in New York City. His brother Murray Boltinoff was an editor at DC Comics. His cartoons are still available and one sample can be seen at the King Features website – showing his more rounded style to the cartoon above, similar to the DC Comics version. He created amongst many strips the cute Super-turtle! I’ve found a book by him that looks intriguing called Sex is Better in College with a cartoon cover showing a pony-tailed girl chasing a boy who is holding her frilly pants at a distance, and Howls of Ivy which I assume refers to the Ivy League colleges’ halls.

If anyone knows why this American was published in London Opinion, I’d love to hear from you. Perhaps he was posted here during the war – but this 1939 and therefore unlikely, but who knows?