Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Born in London on 15 March 1914, Maurice Charles John Wilson was best known as a wildlife artist whose work appeared in dozens of books and on cards given away with Brooke Bond tea. He was educated at the Hastings School of Art (under Philip Cole) and the Royal Academy Schools (under Malcolm Osborne and Robert Austin) and later taught anatomical and plant drawing. He worked with members of the Natural History Museum in reconstructing the look of dinosaurs from fossils and his work in this area was much respected, inspiring books such as A History of Primates (1949), Fossil Amphibian and Reptiles (1954), Fossil Birds (1958) and Human Evolution: An Illustrated Guide (1989).
Wilson wrote and illustrated Just Monkeys (1937). After the war he illustrated dozens of books, including Dogs (1946), Coastal Craft (1947), Zoo Animals (1948), A Guide to Earth History (1956), Birds and Beasts (1956), Mermaids and Mastadons: A Book of Unnatural History (1957), Elephants (1958), Animals We Know (1959), Fables from Aesop (1961), Donkey Work (1962), A World of Animals (1962), Animals (1964), Animals of the Arctic (1964), Birds (1965), The Origins of Man (1968), First Interest on the Farm (1969), A Long Time Ago (1969-70), Patch by Helen Griffiths (1970), Man, Civilzation and Conquest (1971), China Long Ago (1972), First Interest in the Wider World (1972), Double Trouble by Doreen Tovey (1972), Making the Horse Laugh by Doreen Tovey (1974), The Earliest Farmers and the First Cities (1974), The Quzzer Book About People (1975), Oh Those Cats by Frances Mann (1975), A Quorum of Cats: An Anthology ed. Elizabeth Lee (1976), Bambi by Felix Salten (1976), Prehistoric Animals (1976), A Closer Look at Arctic Lands (1976), Prehistoric Animals (1976), A Closer Look at Plains Indians (1977), A Closer Look at Eskimos (1977), Ponies (1977), Birds of Prey (1978), A Closer Look at Amazonian Indians (1978), A Closer Look at the Bedouin (1978), Cats in the Belfry by Doreen Tovey (1978), Horses (1979), Lions and Tigers (1979), A Closer Look at Aboriginies (1979), Birds (1979), A Comfort of Cats by Doreen Tovey (1979), A Closer Look at Grasslands (1979), Lifeclass (1980), The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1983), The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1984), All the Mowgli Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1984), Lions and Tigers (1985) and Deserts (1986).
Wilson lived in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, where he died in November 1987.
Wilson's autobiography, The Wartime Adventures of B Squadron 'Corpse' (1997), was publishing posthumously, relating how he joined the 11th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment in 1941 and spent much of the war in a Matilda tank, weathering sandstorms in the Middle East, taking part in the landings at Walcheren and in the 'CDL' experiment which involved placing blindingly bright carbon arc lamps in the turrets of tanks to create a wall of light when the tanks were lined up—an idea that was never used in battle.
Many of his illustrations were produced to accompany displays at the Natural History Museum and many can be found in the Natural History Museum's Collection.
Examples of Maurice Wilson's original artwork can be found at the Illustration Art Gallery.