Home Notes: Leslie Caswell

I mentioned Leslie Caswell, whom Mike Noble (the comic artist) knew in the 50s in the last blog post.

Noble is quoted as saying “Caswell showed me how to design a picture within a frame” (Boyd, N. in Khoury, G. ed. 2004, p.152*).

The Net includes reference to his school background (Soham Grammar School). This is a really fascinating period piece and we learn that Caswell exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1940 and was in Burma during the war in the Royal Artillery.

Leslie Caswell at Soham

Leslie Caswell at Soham 1937 - 2nd from left on back row - (shamelessly borrowed from: http://www.sohamgrammar.org.uk/midsum_1937.htm)

My first scan from Home Notes shows a couple with the man almost looking comical! I’m not sure if my wife dressed like that I would be worrying about her ‘tidiness’.

Home Notes 27 July 1951 p6-7

Home Notes 27 July 1951 p6-7

Unfortunately I no longer have this issue to be able to tell you what ‘Linda’ did! But remember this is the early 50s. The affluent growing middle class after the Second World War is definitely the only model of family allowed at this time. Father is the sturdy solid black figure in the foreground towering in proportions over his wife and child. The lighting is interesting in this. The window is ‘in our faces’ but still is balanced by the dark suit

Home Notes 17 August 1951 p28-29

Home Notes 17 August 1951 p28-29

Again here we have the coy wife and her protector. A 1951 ideal.Notice however the strong figure work. He is looking to the right to her, and we follow his eyes to her and wonder then what she is thinking.

Home Notes 7 September 1951 p7

Home Notes 7 September 1951 p7

There is scant reference to Caswell on the Net, but interestingly:

Textbook of Operative Gynæcology

By Wilfred Shaw, M.A., M.D., F.R.C.S., Gynæcologist, St. Andrew’s Hospital, Dollis Hill, London, England. Cloth. $19. Pp. 444, with 382 illustrations. Williams & Wilkins Company, Mt. Royal and Guilford Aves., Baltimore 2; E. & S. Livingstone, Ltd., 16 and 17 Teviot Pl., Edinburgh, Scotland, 1954.

This is one of the foremost books on operative gynecology published in any language. It is a pity that Wilfred Shaw did not live to see this book completed. Even though he knew he had a fatal illness, he worked on the manuscript to the very end. Shaw acknowledged inspiration of illustrations from the textbooks of Peham-Amreich, Martius, TeLinde, and Greenhill. He borrowed some excellent original drawings, but the remainder of the illustrations were drawn by Leslie Caswell and are unsurpassed for accuracy and beauty.

Lastly for some of Caswell’s colour work take a look at “The spear thrower” from 1972, an unusual piece to be doing later in life!

So where did he continue illustrating when he moved to Cornwall and is he still alive? Get in touch if you know more
* Boyd, Norman, 2004. in G. Khoury, ed. True Brit: a celebration of the great comic book artists of the UK?, pp.150-155

20 comments on “Home Notes: Leslie Caswell

  1. […] “Dip in the pool” by Raold Dahl, which according to Wiki was first published in The New Yorker on 19 January 1952. Now what I find interesting here is the fact that this could easily be an early Mike Noble drawing. The ‘sheen’ on the characters, the tilt of the head.But it is signed by Caswell – Mike Noble worked with him as previously described […]

    • Catherine says:

      I am Leslie Caswell’s daughter. It was nice to read of your interest in my father’s work. Thank you for your kind comments. My father sadly died in 1986. However the model village and Cornish museum he created at Lelant, near St. Ives continued to be displayed for ten years following his death having been moved to the Land’s End visitors centre. My father actually served with the Royal Artillery in India during the war and was also commissioned as an official war artist. You may be interested to know that, during his comercial art studio days (Caswell Studio Ltd of Oxford Street), he was a primary illustrator for C&A as well as producing many illustrations for a variety of national newspapers and magazines. He also produced an illustrated series for the BBC called ‘Skayn’ featured on the children’s televsion series ‘Zokko’ (directed by Paul Ciani). My brothers and I are in the process of cataloguing his life’s work.

      • standby4action says:

        Hi Cathy
        What a wonderful surprise to hear from you. This is indeed exciting news to hear you’re cataloguing your Dad’s work.
        Please do keep in touch and thanks again for making contact

      • Louise Gibson says:

        My father, who served in India during WW2, had his portrait painted by Leslie Caswell. Dad died last year aged 93. I love the painting.

  2. Mark Whitty says:

    Dear Catherine;
    I am working with Wilfred Shaw’s family on his life’s work. I would be most interested to know what you may have on his work, and to offer what I can from the medical / gynaecological work I have of his if you lack such material.

  3. standby4action says:

    Thanks for that Mark. I’ve posted your comment in the hope that Catherine is following this

  4. […] I love doing this blogging. Take a look at the comment section of this post on Leslie Caswell: […]

  5. Hello All,
    I am Leslie Caswell’s Oldest son Hamilton Caswell (b. 26.7.44), and have only just stumbled on this thread! I watched Father illustrating the medical books and much else at our home in Dorking before he opened his “Caswell Studio” in Oxford Street, London in the mid 1950’s and illustrated countless magazine stories, fashion advertising and two daily newspaper strip cartoons plus books etc.
    Before WW2 he progressed from Soham Grammar to the prestigious Slade School of Art where he won the life-drawing prize. He began his WW2 service in the Royal Artillery , but was slightly deafened by the 25 pounder guns under his command. He was reassigned as an official war artist in India recording the actions and personnel in the Burma campaign and also drew and painted many members of the British forces, African regiments, Gurkas, Indian scenes, beggars, villagers, Mahrajas and beautiful Tibetan women. Upon returning home in 1946 he and my mother Grace became founder members of the Dorking Group of artists, which has grown and flourished to this day. Particularly known for his portraiture, he has painted Lord Mountbatten and the Duke of Edinburgh.
    I will be happy to expand on any aspects
    of Father’s work in future.

    • standby4action says:

      How fantastic to hear from you Hamilton. Thanks for the potted biography. I’m sure many others will be so happy to know more, so if you fancy writing an article or two with illustrations / photos I would be only one of many to appreciate that! Mike Noble and I were reminiscing about his time with your dad only recently.

    • louiseblackburn says:

      Hello Hamilton, your father sketched my father whilst they were out inn the Far East,might have been India or Burma. I put the sketch on the site but in case you can’t find it please let me know if you’d like to see it. I’ve had it framed and it’s a wonderful likeness of my late father. i’m very glad to have it. Regards Louise Blackburn

      • standby4action says:

        I’ve sent a copy of this to Hamilton in case he is not monitoring this thread Louise. Thanks for making contact, Norman

      • Catherine says:

        Hi Louise,
        When you send Hamilton a link to the picture, please could you also send a link to me? My father’s diaries and records may well have more detail about the portrait (which would have been done in India).
        Best wishes,
        Catherine (Leslie Caswell’s daughter)

      • louiseblackburn says:

        Hi Catherine,
        I’m happy to send you a copy of the portrait if you’ll let me know your email address. Otherwise you can see it if you click on ‘Visual Rant’ for 22 August 2014 above ‘Leslie Caswell again’. If you do find any information in your father’s diaries I’d be glad to know. My late father’s name was Jack Blackburn.
        Best wishes

      • standby4action says:

        Hi Catherine, Here’s the direct link that Louise mentions. She kindly shared this a while ago
        Norman (trying to keep up with a flurry of activity!) https://standby4action.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/leslie-caswell-again/

    • Peter Jones says:

      If this thread is still active I’d like to let Hamilton Caswell and his sister Catherine know that I have a fine pencil drawing by their father of the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin dated 1940. It belonged to my father who worked in the Admiralty during the war and the family story was that it was by someone he knew at that time. I found this blog today and it’s the first time I knew anything about Leslie Caswell. Thank you. Peter Jones

      • standby4action says:

        Hi Peter
        The reason for doing this blog is to capture and maybe get conversations going, so yes, you have made it live again! I, for one, would love to see the artwork if you could take a picture! Look under “About the Author” for my email address. Thanks for writing Peter.

      • Frank Haslam says:

        Please contact me via the Soham Grammarians’ website http://www.sohamgrammar.org.uk which I edit. Leslie was a gifted pupil. Interesting about Dorking as I live in Leatherhead.
        There is a page on Leslie on SG website.
        Regards, Frank Haslam

  6. Frank Haslam says:

    As editor of the Soham Grammarians’ website I would be grateful to be put in touch with his family.
    Frank Haslam

    • standby4action says:

      Dear Frank
      Thanks for writing. I have forwarded this to Cathy, Leslie Caswell’s daughter, who wrote way back in 2013 and hope that you hear from her.
      Best wishes

  7. […] John Bull, and the regional newspaper the Birmingham Weekly Post. He often noted how much he owed Leslie Caswell, who he worked with at the […]

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