(1874 - 1948)

Mary Tourtel, creator of Rupert Bear, was born Mary Cardwell into an artistic family, her father being a stained-glass artist and stonemason, with one brother continuing the stained-glass tradition and another becoming an animal painter in Africa. Following her training at the Sidney Cooper School of Art in Canterbury she pursued a career in book illustration with her first books, A Horse Book and Three Little Foxes, appearing in 1897, the year she married a sub-editor on the Daily Express named Herbert Tourtel.

In 1920 the Express decided they ought to compete with the Daily Mail’s highly successful children's comic strip and Tourtel, being a classically trained artist, well-established children's book illustrator and former contributor to the paper was put forward. Although not an immediate runaway success, Tourtel's versified strips soon gained popularity, first being published in book form as early as 1921 by Thomas Nelson, with Sampson Low taking over proceedings by 1924 when they published the Rupert Little Bear's Adventures series. As the character gained popularity throughout the late Twenties and early Thirties the Express was keen to capitalise and asked Tourtel to take on the extra burden of supplying additional comics to a weekly supplement of which Rupert would be the centrepiece. The additional work, combined with failing eyesight and the illness of her husband, forced Tourtel to retire in 1935.  Not wishing to lose Rupert, the paper looked for a replacement artist and in 1936 decided on Alfred Bestall who successfully built on Mary’s success.  Mary’s “Little Lost Bear”, initially created to win sales from rival papers, is still in print nearly 100 years later, with the Rupert Annual remaining a firm favourite with children today.

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Books by this author

Rupert - 1948



The Monster Rupert - 1948