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Henry Justice Ford (1860-1941)

Henry Justice Ford (1860-1941)

Henry Justice Ford was best known for his exquisite illustrations to Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, which reveal his Pre-Raphaelite allegiance.

Henry Justice Ford was born in London in February 1860. He was educated at Repton and Clare College, Cambridge, where, in 1882, he was awarded a first in Classics. He then turned to art, studying under Alphonse Legros at the Slade School of Fine Art, and under Hubert von Herkomer at his school in Bushey, Hertfordshire. On returning to London, he established himself as an illustrator through a collaboration with the writer, Andrew Lang, on a highly popular series of Fairy Books (1889-1901). His precise illustrations were influenced by the work of Walter Crane and the Pre-Raphaelites, especially the ethereal figures and idealised classical and mediaeval settings of Edward Burne-Jones. This influence continued in his later, coloured illustrations.

Working also as a painter of romantic and historical subjects, Ford was patronised by George Howard, Earl of Carlisle, and Sir Merton Russell-Cotes, and exhibited at the Royal Academy and other leading venues. Solo shows were mounted at the Baillie Gallery, the Fine Art Society and the New Gallery.

During the 1920s, Ford became the chief illustrator for SPCK’s line of children’s books. His last work as a dedicated book illustrator was for Louise Creighton’s
Tales of Old France (1924), though he did contribute to Cynthia Asquith’s The Treasure Ship: A Book of Prose and Verse (1926).

Ford lived latterly in Dorset, first at Dunshay Manor, the country home of his friend and fellow artist, George Spencer Watson, and then Langton Maltravers, where he suffered a mental decline. Sadly, he died on 19 November 1941 at Derby County Mental Hospital in Mickleover, just six miles from his old school in Repton.