Ernest Howard Shepard was a British artist known for his book illustrations. Born in London in 1879, Shepard showed early promise in drawing. In 1897, after attending Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in Chelsea for a year, Shepard received a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy Schools where he remained until 1902. In the early 1900s Shepard began producing drawings for illustrated editions of works such as Aesop’s Fables and David Copperfield, as well as contributing to the popular satire magazine Punch. During the First World War Shepard served as an officer in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Shepard continued to exercise his artistic skill throughout the War by providing sketches of the combat areas surrounding his postings for the Intelligence Department.
Following the War, in 1921, Shepard became a regular cartoonist for the magazine Punch, where he would remain for several years, becoming lead cartoonist in 1945. During this time, the artist began his long working relationship with the author A.A. Milne. Shepard was initially asked to illustrate a book of poetry, published in 1924, which marked the first appearance of the teddy bear character which would later become Winnie-the-Pooh. Shepard illustrated the first collection of stories about the famous bear, published in 1926, purportedly using toys beloved by Milne’s son and his own son as models for the character. He went on to illustrate all four volumes of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The artist also helped shape several other literary characters such as those in Kenneth Grahame’s novel The Wind in the Willows, illustrating the most popular edition of the novel in 1931. Alongside his success as a book illustrator Shepard continued to contribute political cartoons to the magazine Punch, producing several important drawings of the events of the Second World War. However, Shepard’s illustrations of A.A. Milne’s work proved to be the most enduring examples of work the artist produced. In 1969 over 300 preliminary sketches for Winnie-the-Pooh were exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The artist was made an Office of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1972. He died in 1976. His work is held in the collections of the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.