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Rex Whistler - Livres du Mois

In honour of Rex Whistler's birthday I have compiled a collection of books about his life and works. There is currently an exhibition at the Salisbury Museum "Rex Whistler: The Artist and His Patrons" with a matching book by Nikki Frater of the same title that will be running until Sunday 29th September 2024. Learn more here.


Rex Whistler

His Life and his Drawings

Laurence Whistler

“Rex Whistler died in 1944, leading his troop of tanks into battle in Normandy. His death was one of the most serious blows suffered by the living arts in this war, for at the age of thirty-nine he had long since passed from the region of promise to that of achievement. Yet his immensely versatile genius cannot easily be related to the main currents of modern art, for he was quite untouched by them and, if we exclude his imitators, unique.

His younger brother, Laurence, now tells the story of his life and death, and discusses the growth and nature of his gifts. He suggests that, while we might see him best in the company of Inigo Jones and William Kent--whom he resembled in versatility and scholarship -yet, on the other hand, his Romanticism and wit were of a kind essentially modern. He was a Romantic, fluent in a Classical tongue.

Unfortunately his finest work is not well known, for his best murals are in private houses, and his best illustrations unobtainable by the general public. This book, the first to be devoted to him, attempts to do justice to his achievement in one sphere: that of drawing. The illustrations speak for themselves, and we will mention only one feature- the inclusion of six lovely designs for Königsmark privately commissioned by Mr A. E. W. Mason, during the war. These we are allowed to publish for the first time, among much other work that will be new to the reader. The book concludes with a detailed bibliography of Rex Whistler's illustrated books and wrappers, and a list of his designs for the Theatre.”


The Work of

Rex Whistler

Laurence Whistler

"The important catalogue of Rex Whistler's work produced by his brother Laurence and Ronald Fuller. The catalogue contains 700 works, the authors purpose being 'to record all the artist's work of any consequence'.

It includes Whistler's murals, portraits, sketch-books, drawings, architecture, furniture and product designs, designs for the theatre and cinema, printed books, periodicals, bookplates, stationery, advertisements, posters, jeux d'esprit, caricatures and works for children."


Rex Whistler

An Anthology of Mine


"A facsimile edition of the 'little anthology' of favourite poems compiled and illustrated by Rex Whistler in 1923, presented in a cloth-bound slipcase. This is a personal collection, hand-written and embellished, by a young artist who had recently discovered poetry. Rex Whistler was just eighteen and in his first year at the Slade when he began to compile it, using an ordinary ruled exercise book to keep his handwriting straight.

The poems are well known and well loved, the watercolours are enchanting. Every page shows Rex Whistler's new-found delight in verse of a romantic kind: Keats, Marvell, de la Mare, Emily Dickinson, Shelley, Tennyson, Gray, Edith Sitwell and others. But, though serious about the poems, he could not, being Rex Whistler, deny himself flippancy on a title page, or in a pencilled comment added to Keats' woebegone knight-at-arms. Whistler made this earliest of all his illustrated books for his own pleasure. It was first published, in an abbreviated edition, in 1981, almost sixty years after Whistler compiled it, and has long been out of print. This splendid new edition, an exact facsimile of the original, is alive with the youthful pleasure that first inspired the brightly coloured fantasies of 1923."


Rex Whistler

The Artist and his Patrons

 Nikki Frater

"Focusing on the British virtuoso Rex Whistler, who was linked to many of the most illustrious figures of the inter-war period, this book explores an exceptional case of artistic patronage in the twentieth century. In weaving together social and art history, this beautifully illustrated volume will be as much about the artist as it is about his patrons. It accompanies a major exhibition at the Salisbury Museum, which holds the Rex Whistler Archive. 

Whistler’s cast of patrons reads like the Who’s Who of his time: the art collector and poet Edward James, the avid diarist and socialite Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten, Cecil Beaton, Duff and Diana Cooper, author and poet Lady Dorothy Wellesley and many others for whom Whistler worked on a diverse range of commissions, from murals, portraits and bookplates to architectural improvements and even book illustrations. The exchange with his patrons, the book argues, gave Whistler an opportunity to explore a rich variety of subjects, materials and techniques."


The Laugher and the Urn

The Life of Rex Whistler

Laurence Whistler

"Laurence Whistler's richly-researched account of the life of his brother Rex. Rex Whistler's life was tragically cut short in 1944 whilst in action during WW2. Laurence made a huge effort to ensure that Rex's work was recorded and enjoyed by future generations. Alongside this biography he also wrote His Life and His Drawings and The Work of Rex Whistler. Rex's varied work is discussed alongside his life and his friendships with figures including Edith Olivier, Stephen Tennant, Cecil Beaton and Seigfried Sassoon."


Rex Whistler

The Triumph of Fancy

Stephen Calloway

"The catalogue for an exhibition on the work of Rex Whistler held at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in 2006. It was the first full-scale exhibition of Whistler's work since 1960. The curator Stephen Calloway provides an essay on Whistler's life and work and then illustrates a selection of Whistler's art including paintings, drawings, stage designs, illustrations and book plates. The catalogue ends with a list of mural decorations and designs for theatres, and a selective list of book illustrations."


Rex Whistler


Hugh and Mirabel Cecil

"Rex Whistler was one of the most intriguing artists of the interwar years. His work encompassed all areas of art and design, from set design for opera, ballet and the West End theatre to book illustration. He painted moving and memorable portraits, of people and of their houses. And he was the outstanding mural painter of his day. As a 20-year old student at the Slade School he painted a mural which a still be seen on the walls at Tate Britain. Later murals are to be seen at Port Lympne in Kent, Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire, Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire and - his masterpiece, Plas Newydd, Anglesey. At the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered to serve in the army. He became a dedicated tank commander in the Guards Armoured Division. He was killed in Normandy on 18 July 1944.

This beautiful slipcase contains two individual volumes - Family, Friendships, Landscapes and Love and War. Together they describe the sources of inspiration Rex Whistler drew on for his work as a portrait painter, and as a designer of theatre sets and costumes, of books and of advertisements, and above all, as a painter of murals."


In Search of Rex Whistler

His Life & Work

Hugh and Mirabel Cecil

"A comprehensive look at the life and work of the English artist Rex Whistler. With many images the book examines Whistler's murals, paintings, portraits, book illustrations and theatre designs. It also looks at Whistler's life story and the interwar social circle in which he moved. The appendices include a list of books illustrated and decorated by Whistler (including dust jackets), a list of his designs for the theatre (plays, ballets, operas and revues), and the locations of his major murals."


I hope you have found something of interest amongst this collection of books, but if not, there may be something more to your tastes in the Compendium's Library.


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