Edward Ardizzone – universally known as ‘Ted’ – was born in Haiphon, French Indo-China (now Vietnam) to a father of Italian extraction and an English mother. Whilst his father stayed in the Far East working for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, his mother brought the five year old Edward to live in England. Here they moved from place to place, but they were never too far from Ipswich where Edward’s grandmother resided. At Ipswich the young Ardizzone explored the docks, met the sailors and established the memories which would later form the basis for the famous Little Tim books.
Ardizzone went to Clayesmore School in Dorset – a school which encouraged his interest in drawing (if not quite to the extent intended: Ardizzone recalls schooldays ‘ill spent’..in..‘scribbling over my lessons’*). But his interest in drawing stayed with him, and after the day time committments of his first job as clerk for the Eastern Telegraph Company Ardizzone took evening classes in life-drawing at Westminster School of Art, London.
On inheriting a sum of money from his father Ardizzone left his job as clerk, got married to Catherine Anderson, and set up as a freelance artist. His first commissioned break came by way of Johnny Walker – the whisky distillers – who wanted drawings for commercial use; but it was not until his first show at the Bloomsbury Gallery that Ardizzone started to attract the kind of critical acclaim he was later to achieve. And this show also led to his first contract as book illustrator of Sheridan Lefanu’s ‘In a Glass Darkly’ (1929).
During the war Ardizzone was appointed Official War Artist by Sir Kenneth Clark (of ‘Civilization’ fame – an admirer and collector of Ardizzone’s work). He was sent first to France and then to the Middle East. But on his return trips to England he continued to illustrate and soon, with a work he created and which was published just before the War – ‘Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain’ – his work began to attract the following it now enjoys.
Ardizzone had three children, Christianna, Philip and Nicholas. When young he would make up stories to tell them – an accomplishment he inherited from his mother; and it has often been said that, because the Tim books were initiated from the spoken word, it is possible to hear, even though transcribed into text, the sonorous tones of the writer’s voice.
Ardizzone always maintained that the art of a children’s book illustrator was particularly good when it was created as much for the child within the illustrator, as for the child viewing the illustrations. And this, almost certainly, is why the Tim books have just as much appeal for adults as they do for children; and why, too, there is no condescension in either the writing or the illustrations for the books.
In 1956 Ardizzone was to win the first Kate Greenaway medal for the pictures in the Tim books. But the illustrations have received universal acclaim from those young and old. The New York Times heralds Ardizzone as being able to paint…’the wettest sea you ever saw’. And one of the greatest children’s illustrators himself, Maurice Sendak, declares the books…’the saltiest and most satisfying picture books created…’.