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Mabel Dearmer’s life was as unusual and striking as her pictures: she was born Jessie Mabel Prichard White in 1872, and was a novelist, playwright, translator and illustrator. She was the wife of the Rev. Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), a liturgist and historian of Christian worship, and the mother of the WW1 poet Geoffrey Dearmer (1893–1996).   

From A Noah's Ark geography (1901.9.9)

Mabel Dearmer first meant to be an actress but abandoned this career because “They did not think me pretty enough.” She also studied art and wrote a small number of novels but her greatest successes were in her illustrations and plays. Her illustrations are instantly recognisable for her use of bright, eye-catching blocks of colour and simple yet imaginative designs. She first experimented with poster-art and moved on to book illustration, maintaining the poster style for many of her pictures. Despite their detail, they can be taken in with a glance and, much like posters, make a vivid and lasting impression on the viewer.  

Great energy seems to have suffused any project into which she threw herself; nothing she did was done half-heartedly. In her role as a vicar’s wife, she made it her business to know her husband’s Hampstead parishioners, and, much like Anne of Green Gables, was always able to recognise ‘kindred spirits.’  

From A Noah's Ark geography (1901.9.9)

In spite of her failure to become an actress, she remained heavily involved with the theatre and wrote and produced a great number of plays. In a letter, George Bernard Shaw wrote: “You are one of the few people living who can write plays.” People in the business thought she might one day have her own theatre; with her “combination of tact with driving power” this might have been possible had the war not intervened. She even had a side-line in buying and then leasing theatrical costumes. They were kept in one of the houses that she owned, managed and let out to tenants.

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