Reg and Ann Cartwright: Artwork and Storytelling, 1959-2005

A selection of items from the Reg and Ann Cartwright Archive is currently on exhibition in the basement of the David Wilson Library. Reg Cartwright is an award-winning painter from Leicester, whose work has been exhibited around the world. He is perhaps best known as the illustrator of 40 books for young readers, many of which were produced in collaboration with his wife Ann, whom he married in 1962 and with whom he has two sons. The Cartwright Archive, containing a number of original paintings, was donated to the Special Collections of the University of Leicester by Reg and Ann in October 2010.

Boy with bread
‘Boy with loaf of bread’ from: Portfolio of work, (c. 1975 - mid-1980s). This is a portrait of Russell Harty as a child.
The best art training I could have had

When he was only 16, Reg knew that he wanted to make a career as a professional artist.  After a spell working in shoe design and having completed his National Service in Cyprus and Germany, he secured a job in a Leicester advertising agency, from where he moved on to Gaytons as a commercial artist.  ‘It was a real studio with easels, paints, brushes – not like today when it’s all done with computers – and I learned all sorts of different techniques.  It was the best art training I could have had.’   After Gaytons, Cartwright went on to work as Art Director with Gee Advertising.  In 1969 he decided to paint in oils for the first time:  ‘I hadn’t a clue how to use them, but reckoned I could teach myself, so I began on a portrait of my two sons … That painting took me ages.’ 

Up until about 1976, Reg painted in the naïve style.  He acknowledged his debt to Henri Rousseau, in whose paintings he ‘felt a poetic, enigmatic quality’*, which he wanted to emulate and which inspired him to embark on his first oil painting.  The naïve element in Reg’s early oils was always, however, tempered by his professional graphic design technique and his ability to render objects realistically and in great detail.