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 7 February 1953 page 24 "A comdey in rubber" by O Henry
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 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.
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.