Peggy Fortnum is the original illustrator of Paddington Bear who has died, aged 96, at Freda Gunton House Residential Home in Colchester. In 1958 she was commissioned by the author of the Paddington stories, Michael Bond, to create a visual interpretation of the loveable bear. Her original drawings were black and white pen drawings in 1958 for a total of eleven Paddington books.
Fortnum’s illustrations were inspired by her visit to London zoo and the Malayan bears as she wanted him to represent what a real bear would look like (had he been wearing a mac, hat and booties). These original visualisations formed the basis for the Paddington Bear we see today.
Throughout Fortnum’s life she always had an interest in art. In 1939 she enrolled at Turnbridge Wells School of Art. Her time there was cut short when she witnessed a London bombing in 1940. After this, she decided to leave school and join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). After a freak accident, which involved her leg being run over by a lorry, she could no longer continue.
Despite a long and taxing recovery, Fortnum went back to the drawing board – literally. She enrolled at the London Central School of Art to continue her studies of art. Her first piece of commission came from the college when she was booked to illustrate Mary F Moore’s book- The Wooden Doll in 1944. This led her into the world of children’s book illustration, which eventually led her to Paddington. Some of her other famous work was Thursday’s Child (1970) and The Reluctant Dragon (1972).
During this time she met and married Ralph Nuttall-Smith, a sculptor from Colchester. In 1965 the couple settled down in West Mersea on the Essex Coast where they spent the rest of their lives.
Throughout her career, Fortnum received fan mail by the masses for her work which she always replied to with a quaint drawing of Paddington himself rushing across the page.
Margaret Emily Noel “Peggy” Fortnum, illustrator, born 23 December 1919; died 28 March 2016.