Sidmouth is a quaint town nesting in a valley, surrounded by hellishly steep slopes that leave you puffed out of existence when you finally get to the top of the hill.  It was on an overcast day while trying to prepare ourselves for the steep walk ahead that we came across an abandoned section of the coast path.  It was abandoned because the Jurassic Coast cliffs are naturally unstable and this section had partially collapsed causing the path to be diverted inland.  The abandoned area was left as a wild flower meadow for dog walkers and nature appreciators to enjoy.

We ventured into this area back in June only to find a sea of daisies, poppies, and speedwells, and a couple of very happy dogs running wild through them.  It was like falling into a Marcel Marlier illustration from the 1950/60s where landscapes are perfect, children are happy, and even the pets can smile.

Some of Marcel Marlier’s work tends to receive criticism for this kind of unrealistic “twee” happiness which, probably comes as a result of attempting to shelter post-WWII’s children from the horrors of that past event, or maybe to forget what was experienced during such times (I am guessing on the basis of what was usual at the time).  I suspect that not many of the people that criticise him now actually remembers or even imagines what it was like. I am not even sure what some adults expect from children’s books – you can be unrealistic in many ways…

I came across his work in my own childhood much later, at a time when fashions were different and the horrors were mostly forgotten.  For me he created a magical world of beautiful places and landscapes and I owe him my love of art and nature.  Of all the illustrated books I loved in my childhood, no other illustrator had as much effect on me, save perhaps one other which created the most fascinating illustration of a scene on dwarf planet Pluto.  That one caused me to spend countless hours imagining the entire Pluto world on the basis of that one image alone. I don’t know his/her name.

To Marcel Marlier…

Sidmouth, 2019

Sidmouth, (digital art) 2019


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