Tourtel was born as Mary Caldwell and raised in an artistic family, youngest child of a Samuel and Sarah Caldwell, a stained-glass artist and stonemason. She studied art under Thomas Sidney Cooper at the Sidney Cooper School of Art in Canterbury (now the University for the Creative Arts), and became a children's book illustrator. In 1900 she married an assistant editor of The Daily Express newspaper, Herbert Bird Tourtel at Eton.
Rupert Bear was created in 1920, at a time when the Express was in competition with The Daily Mail and its then popular comic strip Teddy Tail, as well as the strip Pip, Squeak and Wilfred in The Daily Mirror. The then news editor of the Express, Herbert Tourtel, was approached with the task of producing a new comic strip to rival those of the Mail and Mirror and immediately thought of his wife Mary: already an established author and artist. Rupert Bear was the result and was first published as a nameless character in a strip titled Little Lost Bear on 8 November 1920. The early strips were illustrated by Mary and captioned by her husband, Herbert, and were published as two cartoons a day with a short story underneath. Rupert was originally cast as a brown bear until the Express cut inking expenses giving him his iconic and characteristic white colour.
In 1931 Herbert Tourtel died in a German sanatorium, and Mary herself retired four years later in 1935 after her eyesight and general health deteriorated, and the Rupert Bear strips were continued by a Punch illustrator, Alfred Bestall.
Mary Tourtel died on March 15, 1948 aged 74 at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital and was buried with her husband at St Martin's Church, Canterbury; they had no children.
I have a little ornament of Rupert putting on his magic boots. Isn't he gorgeous!
Here are some of the books from my collection:
How many do your remember?
Do you collect books? If so, which ones?