Alfred Bestall, 1892 – 1986, was the illustrator of popular cartoon Rupert Bear. He lived in this house in Surbiton, for thirty years. His time there has been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque.
Alfred Edmeades Bestall was Rupert Bear’s second illustrator. He took over from Mary Tourtel, the creator of Rupert Bear when she retired.
He was born in Mandalay, Burma, the son of Methodist missionaries, and was schooled in Rydal School in Colwyn Bay. He gained a scholarship to Birmingham Central School of Art, however, he began his training in art at the LCC (London County Council) Central School of Art. World War One interrupted his studies when he volunteered to join the British Army for the duration of the War.
From 1922 Bestall worked as a freelance illustrator, illustrating for magazines such as Punch and Tatler and for over fifty books, including The Boy Next Door and The Play’s the Thing, written by Enid Blyton. Enid Blyton has also been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque and my post about Enid Blyton’s plaque can be read here.
Rupert Bear lived in an idyllic English village called Nutwood and had many friends, all anthropomorphic like himself, and all scaled to a similar size, including his best friend Bill Badger and Edward Trunk, an elephant.
Bestall’s first Rupert story was called Rupert, Algy and the Smugglers, published in 1935; it was his first attempt at writing as well as illustrating. He continued with this role for thirty years. Rupert Bear stories were published in the Daily Express newspaper. Early images for Rupert depicted him as a brown bear, later images show him as a white bear, the simple explanation is that it was cheaper to print Rupert as white on newspaper rather than using darker ink. The Rupert Bear annuals still depicted him as a brown bear on the covers.
Bestall did not sign his Rupert pictures during the lifetime of Mary Tourtel and only did so once she had died in 1948, with the letter B. He wrote and illustrated at least 270 Rupert Bear stories during his career.
Images: Author’s own unless stated