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S.G.HULME BEAMAN

1887 - 1932

 

A SELECTION OF WORK BEFORE AND AFTER LARRY

ALADDIN RETOLD 1924

THE WOODEN KNIGHT 1925

SINBAD RETOLD 1926

THE TOY TOWN BOOK 1925 SINGLE

OUT OF THE ARK 1927 (3 EXAMPLES)

 

THE SMITH family 1931

JECKYLL AND HYDE 1930

 

TOYTOWN MAGAZINES with illustrations by Ernest Noble

 

TALES OF TOYTOWN 1938 complete colour and b/w

TALES OF TOYTOWN 1946

 

 

 

 

Angela Wigglesworth, article in The Observer 24 February 1980

The Book of Toytown, Harrap 1980 cover only

MAKING THE TV PROGRAMME AT THE BBC, SINGLE

The Selling of the Baker archive (text and items from the sale catalogue) EASY LIVE AUCTION MARCH 2012

 

 

SINGLES (The ADVENTURE AND BUILDING BOOK), c1935

THE CUCKOO CALLS
WHAT JOHN DIDN'T SEE
ENDPAPERS, UNKNOWN PUBLICATION

 

LINKS

The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr. Hare, 4 illustrations shown from the British Museum Collection 1930

Wally the Kangaroo, Warne catalogue reference , National Library of Australia, (Out of the Ark Book)

TOYTOWN , Wikipedia Listing

THE TOYTOWN PLAYS, comprehensive article, Diversity Website

GUARDIAN , October 2003

Jeckyll and Hyde illustrations shown with commentary on Youtube

Bear Alley on Hulme Beaman http://www.montacutemuseum.co.uk/sg-hulme-beaman.html

MONTACUTE TV RADIO AND MUSEUM, entry on Beaman with early theatrical portrait

 

CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

What is the enduring charm of the Toytown project? The characterisations and milieu are engaging but hardly seismic. Alan Bennett recalls the tales on radio fondly as part of his childhood. Much derives from the idiosyncratic visual style of the author/artist, Sidney George Hulme Beaman . While finding the stories pretty lacklustre myself as a child, I was drawn to the construction of this unified and personal world in ways it took me a long time to understand, before my discovery of Father Ted on Craggy Island.

HB was born in 1887 in Edmonton, North London to George H and Eleanor Beaman, His father was an Insurance Surveyor. The artist grew up in Tottenham in a middle class family which, according to the Census employed a servant. Members of his larger family distinguished themselves in a wide range of the Economy and the Arts.

His earliest employment seems to have been as an Insurance Clerk before being listed in the 1911 Census as an Artist and Insurance Clerk. He is listed as a student in Heatherley's Art School, an Independent Art School founded in 1845, and the first such institution to admit women on an equal basis as men and like many students sought employment elsewhere to pay for his studies. Intriguingly, and against his father's wishes, he took to the Stage and was associated with Music Hall performances with Dickensian monologues , an interest that was to mature in later years, in creating models and marionettes for the staged performances of the Towytown narratives. The website of the Montacute Museum (see beneath Links) has a rare theatrical carte de visite of beamn as an actor (perhaps in Dickensian declamatory mode) Indeed, he arrived at his illustrational repertoire in a fascinating way that hasn't really been clarified.

In 1913 he married Maud Mary Poltock, the daughter of a Piano Tuner. They had a daughter Betty, her name often confused with his wife's. I can find no reference to his experiences during the 1914-18 War.

Baker (see beneath) mentions that Beaman's early work was in the making of wooden toys for children, some of which were sold by leading London emporia such as Heal's, answering a market-need created by the loss of German toys from the shops. Beaman took premises (workshop and studio at Kimbolton Lodge) in Golders Green. Significantly he drew upon his limited powers of drawing by providing narrative drawings for the The Golders Green Gazette (see work before Larry above - the dreaded Wiggly-Wog)and the comic strip Philip and Phido in 1923.

In 1925 came the first exercise in Toytown, where images and texts by Beaman combined in The Road to Toytown, see the first story in the Harrap anthology. The previous year his Aladdin Retold was published by John Lane at the Bodley Head. And in 1926, on the basis of Aladdin's success (Every one of his colour plates is worth a separate frame.." Bookman) John Lane published his Sinbad the Sailor.

In the mid-Twenties and having located his fortune in carving wooden toys, he successfully found ways of visualising from the three dimensional, with sufficient powers of textual invention to develop the proposition of Toytown. In 1928 the BBC tapped into the familiarity of the Nation's children with Toytown to broadcast the first of Beaman's stories.

In terms of Book Illustration he produced a number of limited story books for Warne in 1927 , the Out of the Ark series, see above (for example Ham and the Egg, Jimmy the Baby Elephant, Grunty the Pig, Wally the Kangaroo and Jenny the Giraffe).

From 1925 to 1930 (and we are now only two years before his premature death from pneumonia) the fundamentals of his art did not change much. He was not interested in combining complex frontal tableaux with sophisticated backgrounds. He saw imagery in terms of block figures derived from the templates of his carved wooden figures, his graphic lines and volumes suggested by the sorts of shapes and planes that can be created with a jig-saw (which we know was a constant in his studio) . The planes of the background were similarly limited to shapes that could be cut out. Yet the world of The Wooden Knight of 1925, was a consistent and a credible one. Aladdin and Sinbad show him adept at using the Spray Gun, where shapes are created again from cutting out, making masks to create repeated blocks and passages. There is a certain monotony to favourite motifs, the line of bricks, the graining of wood planks, the curl of toe caps. Yet towards the end of the 1930's his invention didn't slacken, and his compositional powers increased (see The Smith Family of 1931 )

The pointer to a widening of his powers came in 1930 with illustrations to Stevenson's Jeckyll and Hyde, where his skills are applied to the macabre (see above). The standard repertoire of Town sights that Larry and Dennis would have recognised are now bathed in blood and terror. This raises the problem of where Beaman has sprung from. We glimpse the occasional visual accent from Maxfield Parrish in his line work before 1926, and more prominently the newspaper cartoons of the day. In the Stevenson plates, he draws on aspects of Arthur Wragg whose work (often grotesque) was seen widely in magazines and books.

Beaman is thought to be the author of the Carnac Manuscript which purported to be an autobiography of Jack the Ripper (in the Montacute TV Radio and Toy Museum) In his introduction to the manuscipt Beaman claims to have censored some particularly nasty passages of description, and reveals that the one legged Carnac had "a streak of cynical and macabre humour..."

Although details in this early exercise of Ripper Literature are said to be accurate to the point of the uncanny, it is generally thought that Beaman himself was Carnac, shedding a new and distrubing light on Toytown, let alone the Edinburgh of Mr, Hyde.

An indicator of future directions for the successful artist cam in 1932 with a proposal from Pathe to develop animations for the cinema.

After Beaman's death , Larry and Dennis, the Mayor and Mr.Growser lived on in the popular mind , in BBC broadcasts on radio, and later on Television. EMI produced 26 colour animation. It is fair to say the spareness and the directness of Beaman's style was dissipated and much over complicated in the telling. See Ernest Noble's graphic over elaboration in the Toytown magazines above.

From time to time I come across isolated commissioned illustrations which Beaman signed with another artist, "V Asta", another indication that Beaman was a busy, even overpressed artist, active in many commercial spheres. He died at 11 Sneath Avenue Golders Green on February 4th 1932 , leaving £971/1/5 in his will, not exactly an indication of huge commercial success.

 

A prime source for biographical details is A Biographical Note by Hendrik Baker (July 1979), who knew Beaman in his youth. see The Book of Toytown Harrap 1979

 

 

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