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Pauline Baynes Alert Me

Pauline Baynes
The Magician's Nephew
Map of Middle-Earth
Illustration: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Originally printed on August 5, 2008 in the Family Announcements.
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Pauline Baynes, who died on 1 August, 2008, was a book illustrator whose work adorned the covers of works of great fantasy fiction and shaped the way generations saw a raft of memorable characters and locations.She was the preferred artist of the Inklings, the nickname given to Oxford friends J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis who revolutionised the scope and merit of the fantasy genre in the 1950s and she illustrated editions of their most famous works.She also painted the covers of Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Borrowers Avenged by Mary Norton and many other books. She was respected within the industry for the clarity and detail of her drawings, a discipline learnt from her days as a map-maker.Pauline Baynes was born in Hove, Sussex on 9 September, 1922. Her father was a commissioner for the British Empire in India where she spent the early years of her life until returning to England with her mother to attend school. With the family thus broken her childhood was somewhat melancholy but she turned to drawing to keep up her spirits.During the Second World War she abandoned her studies at Slade School of Fine Art to work for the Ministry of Defence, initially as a maker of models for training and then a map-maker. After the war she worked in a draughtsman's office but illustrated in her spare time.Her career took off in 1949 when Tolkien was shown a portfolio of fairy tale books she had worked on and hired her to embellish his light-hearted novella, Farmer Giles of Ham. The author was delighted with the results and said his text had been reduced to "a commentary on the drawings".Naturally he set her to work on several of his other projects and called upon her experience of cartography to create vivid maps of Middle-earth, setting of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Her ethereal illustrations of the mythical landscape were used on the cover of the first collected edition of the series while the maps became popular posters among fans of the series.Naturally Tolkien recommended Ms Baynes to C S Lewis. Despite Lewis allegedly complaining that she "couldn't draw Lions", her style of depicting the children and animals of the books became an intrinsic part of the Chronicles of Narnia - the author also bemoaned her being "far too pretty," so perhaps his criticism can be put down to characteristic curmudgeonliness. Though she and her husband (a German butcher, Fritz Gasch) were great friends with Tolkien, she met Lewis only twice.Despite all this, she produced the artwork for several editions of the Narnia tales, probably the best known of which were the gatefold watercolours of the 1960s editions. She was so closely associated with the Narnia adventures that the BBC hired her for the cassette covers of their 1999-2002 radio dramatisations.Lewis ' works were famously Christian allegories, though the artist was unaware of this. "At the time, I just thought they were marvellous stories," she said. Nevertheless she must have subconsciously picked up on the religious undertones for in her efforts to create convincing medieval style costumes and settings, her Narnia illustrations bare a striking resemblance to the European Biblical art of the middle ages.In later life her work was more overt in its religious themes, with picture books of stories from the Old Testament, the Koran and the Book of Job. At the age of 85 she was still working at her cottage in Surrey and trying to find a publisher for her latest book, Oscar the Extraordinary Owl, a collaboration with the author Brian Sibley.Mr Sibley commented after the death of his close friend: "I can remember, precisely, where I was when I read each of the Narnian Chronicles: for example, I read The Magician's Nephew one winter's day curled up before an open fire while my mother was making cakes and pastry on the kitchen table."One glance at the vista on the jacket of the Puffin paperback edition of that book still not only evokes what is, for me, the essence of the land of Narnia - with its seashore, mountains, woods and lakes - but also gives me back a specific day from the tenth year of my life."

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