Artists of the Early 20th Century

After the complete absence of silhouette artists at the end of the nineteenth century, the twentieth century saw a steadily rise in their numbers. Early twentieth century artists inherited a rich tradition from Edouart, and also from the earlier artists he so looked down on, and yet many of them were surprisingly unaware of this. They tended to have the Country Fair and Seaside resort mentality, which looked upon silhouettes as a way of making a quick bob or two! The art of silhouette has always been an art of professionals, there are very few (if any) amateurs worthy of note, and this fact alone makes the silhouettist's world very different from, say, the watercolourist's world. The professionals of the early twentieth century worked on seaside piers and department stores.

Handrup Sil (23k Jpeg)

Handrup was a Danish Silhouettist who lived in London between the wars. For years he ran a Silhouette Parlour at D.H.Evans in Oxford Street, so he is one of those artists whose main body of work is spread around a thousand attics in the country!


A silhouette by Handrup. The cut away highlights on the top hat caught my eye in this profile. One very rarely sees top hats these days, but if ever I do, I'll remember this trick! The smoke from the cigar has been drawn on.


Often I meet people who say can remember being taken to London when they were young (c.1930's) to have their profile taken. I tend to think that the artist must have been Handrup. The inscription on the back says that this picture is of one C.J.Burgess, and was cut at Xmas 1925.

The tradition of cutting silhouettes at deprtment stores flourished briefly in England between the wars. I think Handrup was the best, but this tradition had completely stopped now. Interestingly it does persist in America, were I have heard from silhouettists who can still make a living this way, but they are being squeezed out by the high cost of advertising their appearances.

Oakley Sil (18k Jpeg)

Captain Oakley is a well known artist/silhouettist who started work before World War I, and continued for many years afterwards. He travelled all over the British Isles, making regular appearances in Edinburgh and on Llandudno Pier. He cut both bust-length and full length silhouettes, and his work is always easy to recognise, being either signed or stamped on the front.


A silhouette by Captain Henry Lawrence Oakley. The hands-behind-the-back pose is typical of this artist, and one which I have myself to good effect on occassion.


He also cut a variety of hunting scenes and other landscapes, he trained at The Royal College of Art, and worked as an illustrator as well as a silhouettist. He died in 1960.

Another 20th century artist of note (and well represented in my collection!) is Baron Scotford, an American artist who spent much of his life cutting silhouettes in England. I also have works by Elizabeth Baverstock, Peggy Newell, Arthur Forrester & Rex Cowgill. You will meet these artists, as well as other favourite artists, later in the tour!


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©Charles Burns/www.roving-artist.com/The Edo Barn Site/silhouettes@me.com/This page was first created in September 1997 and last updated August 2012