English artist of the inter-war era
Exhibition: Rex Whistler, A Talent Cut Short. Salisbury Museum 24th May - 29th Sept 2013
Book: In Search of Rex Whistler: His Life and His Work. By Hugh & Mirabel Cecil, published by Frances Lincoln 2012
Rex Whistler was born at Eltham, Kent in 1905. Drawing well from an early age, he entered the Slade School of Art in 1922. Five years later, aged 22, he completed his first big commission: a huge mural in the restaurant of the Tate Gallery, London - soon to be dubbed 'the most amusing room in Europe'.
Later he carried out other mural commissions, including those at Port Lympne, Kent, Mottisfont, Hampshire, and - his masterpiece - the 47 foot Claudian fantasy at Plas Newydd, Isle of Anglesey.
He also painted portraits, landscapes, and humorous sketches for advertising; but was perhaps best known for his exquisite book illustrations (in such titles as Gulliver's Travels, and Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales) and for his fine theatre designs. He collaborated with Geilgud, de Valois, Cochran and others on productions as various as Fidelio, Victoria Regina, The Rake's Progress, and Wake Up and Dream.
At the outbreak of war he took a commission in the Welsh Guards Armoured Division, but continued to work as a professional artist in his spare time throughout the following four years of training, (while also entertaining his fellow soldiers with comic decorations wherever they were billeted - one of which is now in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton).
Shortly after embarking for Normandy in July 1944, he was killed by a mortar shell on his first day in action. He was 39.
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