SKARGON, Yvonne

1931 - 2010

Born at Dovercourt, Essex on 1 May 1931, daughter of Brian Percy F. Skargon (1897-1978), a shipwright, and his wife Lily née Deex (1896-1963), who married at Harwich, Essex in 1923. A makeshift schooling in wartime gave her a taste and some aptitude for drawing and painting and she studied wood engraving and design at Colchester School of Art from 1948 under the Principal, John O'Connor [q.v.], her special inspiration was visiting lecturer Blair Hughes-Stanton [q.v.]. Colchester provided Yvonne with the essential grounding in design work that led to her first job with W. S. Cowell Ltd of Ipswich, then one of the best and most innovative printers in the country. Under the genial eye of John Lewis [q.v.] she added typography and book-design to her repertoire and was transferred to Cowell's London office when she embarked on a career working for publishers or free-lance, illustrating or designing books and book-jackets. Little of this involved wood-engraving, apart from two books on sub-Saharan village life, due to the photographer Howard Coster (1885-1959). But in 1967 Christopher's, the London wine merchants, started a monthly newsletter, to which Elizabeth David (1913-1992) contributed and Skargon illus-trated with her own engravings which was published as a book, 'Eat at Pleasure, Drink by Measure' (1970). In 1976 Yvonne became visiting lecturer in wood engraving at the Royal College of Art, a stimulating task that only ended when the subject was dropped from the syllabus in 1980. The following she moved to Lavenham in Suffolk and when creating her own garden provided her with new inspiration for engraving. First in the 'Observer' magazine and then in 'Hortus', the gardening quarterly, flowers and plants seemed to grow out of the wood under her hand, so naturally that the fine detail seemed part of their structure. In 1990 she did the roses for the Royal Mail commemorative stamps, adding watercolours of them for the special first-day cover envelopes. Another unexpected success came from her engravings of her cats, 'The Importance of Being Oscar' (1988) and 'Lily & Hodge & Dr Johnson' (1991) becoming world bestsellers. The cats became the trademark of a chain of boutique shops in Japan, and were transmigrated into china and textiles, an unexpected spin-off. 'Watermarks' (2003) was a return to the objects and scenes of the sea and shore of her childhood. She married at Finsbury, London in 1962 John E. Commander and she died at home at 44 Prentice Street, Lavenham near Sudbury, Suffolk on 16 March 2010.




Works by This Painter