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Honor C. Appleton

Honor C. Appleton, or Honor Charlotte Appleton in full, was born to parents Georgina and John Hoblyn Appleton, in Brighton on the south coast of England, on 4th February 1879.  Appleton grew up with two older sisters, Rachel and Alice Mary (nicknamed 'Sissy') and one younger brother named John.  Although not a great deal is known about her early childhood, it seems that her mother, Georgina, encouraged Honor and her sisters to take up the creative arts and painting.


Appleton was a student at various art schools. Firstly she attended South Kensington School, after which, on scholarship, she attended Frank Calderdon's School of Animal Painting.  After a short time at the Studio of Sir Arthur Cope, RA, in January 1901 she and her sister Sissy registered at the Royal Academy School.   It appears that Appleton loved learning and made good use of the opportunities afforded to her to develop her skills in different mediums, including sketching and watercolours. Many of her sketchbooks and original watercolours still survive, in which the development and progression of her work can be seen.

As with many other illustrators, it appears that Appleton was influenced by the style at the time and by her contemporary artists.  These would have included Arthur Rackham, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Mabel Lucie AttwellKate Greenaway and Anne Anderson, to mention a few.  

It was in 1902, while still attending the RA school, that her first book was published, so launching her career as an illustrator.  'The Bad Mrs. Ginger' was published by Grant Richards as part of the Dumpy Books series.  However, due to her commitment to her studies, her next published book would not come until 1910 when she supplied the illustrations for 'Songs of Innocence' by William Blake

Probably some of her best known works are the 'Josephine' books written by Mrs. H.C. Cradock and published between 1915 and 1940. Josephine is an 8 year old girl who, although an only child, never gets lonely because of the various adventures she has with her family of dolls. These illustrations are a delight to look at and capture the fun and reality of a little girl’s playtime with her dolls. 


Brighton and its surrounding areas were obviously well loved by the artist as she spent most of her adult life in the nearby area of Hove, with Sissy living close by.  It appears that she didn't enjoy travelling too far afield, but would do so to attend art schools and for business when necessary.  She was, however, fully involved in her local community in the Hove area and during the War she was a nurse for the Civil Defence.  As with her dedicated and committed approach to her art, Appleton applied these same qualities to her nursing, which led to her later being decorated for her services. 

Appleton illustrated many famous classics, including Perrault's Fairy Tales, an edition of Alice In WonderlandHans Andersen's Fairy Tales and many more.  In a career spanning over four decades, she illustrated over 150 children's books. Her ability to capture the mood and take the reader with her through her illustrations is only part of what makes her such a successful artist.  Appleton died in December 1951. In 1952 a memorial exhibition of her work was mounted in Hove Library and later taken on tour to galleries around the UK, thus allowing many more to enjoy the collection of watercolours and drawings by this notable illustrator. 

Contributed by Joanne

Honor C. Appleton (1879-1951) published by Chris Beetles Ltd

(Published 28th Jan 2020)

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