Article dated : Fri, 2nd January 2004
Mary Tourtel - Creator of Rupert Bear
Mary Tourtel was born Mary Caldwell in Canterbury on 28 January 1874, the daughter of a stained glass artist.
After art school Mary became a professional book illustrator particularly skilled in the depiction of animals, and she established herself as an illustrator of children's books.
She married Herbert Tourtel who was a sub-editor at the Daily Express, and it was Herbert who arranged for Mary to draw a small cartoon feature for the Daily Express involving a nameless "Little Lost Bear".
The first Rupert Bear stories appeared in the Daily Express on 8 November 1920. In total Mary Tourtel produced 85 original stories, but failing eyesight forced her to retire and her last panel appeared on 27 June 1935. Many of the stories were also published in a series of books.
Shown here are copies of printer's proofs for the story "Rupert gets lost again" also entitled "Rupert and the Circus Clown". These proofs were never used, but it is interesting to note that Rupert's jersey is blue, the colour originally used by Mary Tourtel, and not the customary red.
Mary Tourtel died in Canterbury on 15 March 1948 aged 74.