Brian Hargreaves

Brian Hargreaves


by Christine Rhone

Christine contributed the following  information on Brian Hargreaves for the recent Rye Art Gallery exhibition of work by both Brian and his wife Joyce, two gifted professional Rye artists.   The exhibition included landscape watercolours, collectable originals of butterflies and original pen and ink drawings while from Joyce there were paintings, linocuts, and pen and ink drawings.  Books containing their work were also available.

Brian Hargreaves was an award-winning artist and illustrator who lived in Rye.   He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a Fellow of the Free Painters and Sculptors, and a member of the Guild of Lettering Craftsmen. Besides all this, he was a caring friend and a superb gardener.

Born in Sutton-in-Craven, Yorkshire, on 27 May 1935, he attended Keighley Grammar School and trained at Keighley School of Arts and Crafts. He continued at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, where he met his wife, Joyce, his life companion and frequent artistic collaborator, and where both gained the National Diploma of Design. Upon completing his studies, he worked in church restoration for a number of years, including cathedrals nation-wide and many well-known £ill1rches in London, the Houses of Parliament, and St Paul’s Cathedral, where he gilded the ball and cross atop its summit.

Brian Hargreaves butterfliesA turning point came while he was working on display material for the Natural History Museum in London. A request for sample illustrations for the book Butterflies of Britain and Europe led to a commission for the entire volume, work that made him the first artist to produce illustrations of all the butterflies of Britain and Europe. Widely published in nine languages and in the USA by Houghton Mifflin, the book resulted in radio and television broadcasts and an exhibition at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the English-speaking Union. During International Book Year, Brian Hargreaves represented Great Britain as the British illustrator at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

Opening up was a period of intense focus on drawing and painting butterflies and moths in a series of about ten books. Butterflies on My Mind by Dulcie Gray, with illustrations by Brian Hargreaves, won the Times Educational Supplement Senior Information Book Award. He illustrated the Field Guide of West Indian Butterflies jointly and the butterfly and moth section of the Field Guide of British Insects single-handedly. He designed and illustrated the Guide to Butterflies and Moths in the popular Collins Gem series. Following were commissions to illustrate two volumes of British Torticoid Moths published by the Ray Society and four volumes of Moths and Butterflies of Britain and Ireland.

Shifting focus from butterflies to botany, Brian Hargreaves went on to win two Gold Medals from the Royal Horticultural Society, the first for his twenty-four plates in Pests, Diseases and Disorders of Garden Plants and the second for his illustrations in Field Guide of Caterpillars and their Food Plants, the latter book published by Collins.

His list of exhibitions is a long one throughout Britain and Europe, including the Royal Academy, the Moorland, Trion, Medici and Loggia Galleries in London, and the Commonwealth Institute in both London and Edinburgh. He also gave lectures on his deep knowledge of butterfly painting and gilding.

Commissions connected with royalty came from the Royal Entomological Society of London, one to paint the butterflies and gardens of Buckingham Palace in a picture presented to the Queen on the occasion of her Silver Wedding and one of a single butterfly on her Golden Wedding. Another was to illustrate an illuminated double page spread in its Visitor’s Book for the Queen to sign on the occasion of the centenary of the granting of the Royal Charter.

Brian Hargreaves illustrated about fifty postage stamps for Norfolk Island, the Cocos [Keeling] Islands, Togo, Gabon, and Summer Island in Scotland. He designed many cards and notes for various publishers, including Medici Cards, and designed and illustrated wall charts for the New Zealand Natural History Society and for Fisons and a jigsaw for the Society of the Promotion of Nature Reserves. Together with Joyce, collaborating closely with him in design and drawing, he worked for Franklin Mint for some years producing butterfly sculptures, butterfly bells, and butterfly napkin rings, sold throughout the world.

Brian’s other activities extended to horse-riding, a sport that he practised and taught throughout his life, and to teaching Sunday school. Brian and Joyce were early members of RILKO and began attending meetings when they took place at Kensington Town Hall. Joyce remembers that the late Janette Jackson vetted them for membership. For many years, Brian held the position of Treasurer, while Joyce produced the RILKO Journal.
Brian Hargreaves died suddenly of a heart attack on 30 September 2011. He is survived by his wife Joyce.

Christine Rhone, 2011

Postal examples of Brian’s work online may be found here

First posted in Notable People on 29th September 2014
Last updated: 29th September 2014