Edward Ardizzone - Illustrator, Muralist and War Artist

by KathleenDuffy

Although best remembered as a fine illustrator and writer of children's books, Edward Ardizzone also painted a rare mural in a Kent church and was a distinguished war artist.

Edward Ardizzone is familiar to children and their parents as the author and illustrator of children's books, especially the much-loved 'Tim' series.

Yet the Carmelite Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tanner Street, Faversham, Kent is home to a large altarpiece executed by Ardizzone in 1953.

This altarpiece is one of Kent’s best kept secrets.

Ardizzone was also a distinguished war artist and his drawings can be seen at London's Imperial War Museum.

Faversham Mural
Faversham Mural
K Duffy

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, FavershamIf you ever visit Kent make sure to visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tanner Street, Faversham.  It is  small yet beautiful. The fragile, timbered structure of the roof gives it an airy, country feel. The High Altar shows a statue of Christ crucified, flanked on either side by St John and Our Lady.


To either side of this trio are the panels by Ardizzone, depicting the Presentation in the Temple and the Visitation.  This altarpiece is well worth a visit, as is the attached Shrine to St Jude and, in fact, the whole little town of Faversham!




The Faversham altarpiece project came about informally. Edward Ardizzone's brother, David, had become a well-respected solicitor in Rodmersham Green, Kent. He habitually invited the local Catholic clergy to his home to talk and drink good wine.

Edward was also a convivial man and often visited his brother. During one of these sociable evenings the subject of an altarpiece was broached.

Presentation in the Temple (detail of Faversham altarpiece)
Presentation in the Temple (detail of Faversham altarpiece)
K Duffy

Edward’s son, Nicholas, remembers the 'deal' for the altarpiece being sealed over a bottle of wine at his uncle David's home in 1953. According to family legend, the commission was paid for by a Russian princess who worshipped at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and was unhappy with the existing decor. (1)


The Visitation (detail of Faversham altarpiece)
The Visitation (detail of Faversham altarpiece)
K Duffy

Creation of the Mural

Initial work for the panels was carried out in Ardizzone’s London studio, the original drawings being executed on large sheets of paper and then traced onto boards. These hardboard panels were then painted in oils.

A mother with awkward child (detail of Faversham altarpiece)
A mother with awkward child (detail of Faversham altarpiece)
K Duffy

According to Ardizzone’s son, Nicholas, the panels are ‘unashamedly derivative of Rembrandt and Rubens, with some reference to the Italian masters’.(ibid.) They radiate tranquility.

Of course, the children in these panels are up to their usual tricks – familiar behaviour to those who know Ardizzone's illustrations and his talent for observing the minutiae of everyday life.

Little Time Books by Ardizzone

Edward Ardizzone - Early Years


Ardizzone was born on 16th October 1900, the eldest of five children, in Haiphong (now Vietnam). His father, a telegraph engineer, was born in Algeria of Italian extraction, although he was raised as French. Ardizzone's mother was English but, untypically, had gone to Paris in the 1880s to study painting. Once married, she accompanied her husband to the Far East, leaving the children in the care of their grandmother.

In the 1920s, Ardizzone's parents settled in Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale, London.

Young Edward worked in the City as a clerk and in the evenings attended drawing classes at Westminster School of Art.

Maida Vale, with its merging of working-class and bourgeois lifestyles, its lively public houses and genteel facades, had much to inspire an artist who drew from the traditions of both British and European illustration. Here Ardizzone refined his abilities to depict the humour and pathos, the innocent and the risque of ordinary life with insight and compassion.

Ardizzone acquired British citizenship in 1921 and eventually abandoned office work to follow a full-time career as an artist.

Marriage to Catherine in 1929 was the beginning of a long, happy family life. Initially life was a struggle, but following a number of successful exhibitions, and commissions from the Radio Times, his reputation was established.

Edward Ardizzone as a War Artist


In 1939 Ardizzone became an official war artist in Italy and Western Europe. His most successful period was from 1943 to 1945 when he covered the invasion of Sicily and the war in Italy.

Travelling on foot and by bicycle, his work juxtaposes the wild beauty of the landscape with the experiences of war, which veered from the mundane to the extreme.

An Advanced Dressing Station near Homs
An Advanced Dressing Station near Homs
Sleep with the crew of my tank under a tarpaulin shelter
Sleep with the crew of my tank under ...
Castel del Rio
Castel del Rio
Camoflaged figures appearing from a wood
Camoflaged figures appearing from a wood
Normandy 1944 - Control Post on the Beaches
Normandy 1944 - Control Post on the Beaches

The Post War Years


By 1948 Ardizzone was teaching at Camberwell School of Art and Craft and simultaneously tutoring at the Royal College of Art. A visit to India as a UNESCO tutor and various commissions, including a portrait of Winston Churchill, saw Ardizzone produce some of his most outstanding illustrated diaries and sketchbooks.

Amongst the many awards he received was the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal in 1956 for his children's book, Tim All Alone.

Edward Ardizzone
Edward Ardizzone

On 8th November 1979 at his cottage in Rodmersham Green, Kent, Edward Ardizzone finished a drawing for his last book, Ardizzone's English Fairy Tales. He died that day. He is buried at the Church of St Nicholas in Rodmersham village.

Ardizzone had found his niche in Kent. His biographer, Gabriel White, describes Kent as Ardizzone's 'evening star'. (2)

Faversham is fortunate to be home to a work that combines a great illustrator's rare diversion into mural painting with a glimpse of his interior spiritual life.



1. Letter from Nicholas Ardizzone to the author dated 3rd November 1998

2. Edward Ardizzone by Gabriel White (Schocken Books, 31 Oct 1988)

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Updated: 06/04/2013, KathleenDuffy
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


KathleenDuffy on 05/11/2013

Pkmcr, thanks for your post. Yes - it really is beautiful and the whole shrine and church interior have a very peaceful atmosphere. There's also a beautiful garden outside with the stations of the cross. A lovely place.

pkmcr on 05/11/2013

Fascinating page and that Alterpiece is truly beautiful and I have sure has inspired many people to prayer and reflection.

KathleenDuffy on 05/10/2013

Hi Mira and Ologsinqjito - Thanks for your nice comments. I love the 'Tim' books. I was lucky to find out about the Faversham altarpiece when I lived there for a few years. The photo of the church interior isn't very good I am afraid - but I do have some transparancies I took which I must get transformed into pics - then I will add them on. Cheers! :)

ologsinquito on 05/10/2013

What beautiful artwork. Thank you for showing us the work of this artistic genius.

Mira on 05/10/2013

This was interesting. His faces somehow brought to mind Goya, of all people. I love the two Tim posters. They're cute :)

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