Honor Appleton represented childhood innocence without resorting to sentimentality, most notably in her illustrations to Mrs Cradock's 'Josephine' stories. these are, for the most part, an exquisitely naturalistic depiction of a young girl's life, with occasional, but increasing suggestions that her dolls are also alive.
Honor Appleton was born at 30 St Michael’s Place, Brighton, Sussex, on 4 February 1879, the third of four children of the Rev John Appleton and his wife, Georgina (née Wilkie). By 1891, her father had died, and she had moved with her mother and siblings to London, and had settled at 41 Edith Road, Fulham, London. Having shown a talent for art from an early age, she studied at the National Art Training School, South Kensington, and then at Frank Calderon’s School of Animal Painting, at 54 Baker Street, where she gained a scholarship. This was followed by a brief period in the studio of Sir Arthur Cope RA.
In January 1901, Appleton enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools, at the same time as her elder sister, Alice.
She seems to have attended intermittently until 1906, during which time her work was recommended John Watson Nichol. She also involved herself in the social life of the schools, by joining its Ladies Hockey Club. She was skilled at the game, and also played for Sussex, her home county.While still a student, Appleton began her career as an illustrator, publishing The Bad Mrs Ginger with Grant Richards in 1902. Evolving her own distinctive style through the assimilation of such nursery artists as Kate Greenaway, Annie French and early Mabel Lucie Attwell, she established herself professionally eight years later with Blake’s Songs of Innocence (Herbert and Daniel, 1910).
By 1911, Appleton was living at 3 Ventnor Villas, Hove, Sussex, with her mother and elder sister, Rachel, and she remained at that address throughout her career. Shrewd and independent, she travelled only on matters of business, and was content to stay locally with her sister, Alice, and her husband in their home in Wivelsfield. She was active in her local community, both artistically and socially, and was a member of the Sussex Women’s Art Club. During wartime, she worked as a nurse for the Civil Defence.
Continuing to keep herself well-informed about the work of her contemporaries, Appleton subscribed to Percy Bradshaw’s correspondence course, The Art of the Illustrator, in 1917. During the following three decades she illustrated over 150 books. While the best known of her early illustrations were for the ‘Josephine’ series, published by Blackie, to texts by Mrs Cradock, she produced much other fine work. In the 1930s and 40s, she moved away from nursery subjects to concentrate upon children’s versions of literary classics for George G Harrap.
She died at Brooklands Nursing Home, Haywards Heath, on 30 December 1951, and was the subject of a memorial show held at Hove Public Library in the following year.
Alan Horne, ‘Appleton, Honor Charlotte (1879-1951)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/69285
The very successful exhibition of work by Honor Appleton which was held by Chris Beetles Gallery in 1990 was the very first since her memorial show in 1951. It was accompanied by a 72-page fully-illustrated catalogue, which included an essay and bibliography.