About the author
Depending on the world you inhabit, Anne Bullen (1913-1963) will be known to you either as an illustrator of pony books, or as the co-owner and founder of the Catherston Stud with her husband Lieutenant Colonel Jack Bullen, but those two Anne Bullens should not be considered separately. Her work breeding ponies influenced her illustrations directly:;Anne Bullen’s illustrations, although they portray different types of ponies and horses, all have a distinct Bullen “look”: a feeling of lightness of movement, and the almost fey quality of the top show pony.
Both Bullens were brought up with horses, and started their stud after the second world war. Jennie Loriston-Clarke, neé Bullen, said “they started rescuing a lot of ponies off the moors and crossing them with thoroughbreds to produce the British riding ponies which we all rode.” The Bullens bred ponies of different sorts; mostly Welsh to start with, but some Exmoor, Dartmoor and cross-breeds, who were ridden by the Bullen’s six children with considerable success.
The ideal pony Anne Bullen worked for in her work breeding emerged too in her illustrations. Cascade, in Monica Edwards’ Wish For A Pony, is the pony that inhabits many small girls’ dreams, and the British pony breed illustrations in Ponycraft all have a look about them almost of fantasy: although recognisibly the breed, they are all overlaid with the characteristic Bullen feel.
Anne Bullen’s illustration work went in tandem with her work on the stud. After training at the Academie Julien in Paris and at the Chelsea School of Art (and also running a circus with her siblings) her career in book illustration coincided with the birth of the classic pony story, one which is told from the point of view of the rider. The first book Anne Bullen illustrated was Joanna Cannan’s A Pony For Jean (John Lane, 1936), a funny and wry look at the acquisition of a pony and introduction to the countryside of an urban child. It was one of the first pony books to introduce what became the classic theme of the pony book: a girl does not have a pony, wants one, gets one, learns to ride and competes successfully.
Anne Bullen worked principally for the publishers Collins from 1938 to 1950, thereby illustrating the work of some major contributors to the pony book genre: all three Pullein-Thompson sisters (daughters of Joanna Cannan) and Monica Edwards, for whom she produced arguably her most striking work. The fashion for producing pony book dustjackets as either black and white or virtually so ( the Pullein-Thompson’s Six Ponies and Three Ponies for Shannan both have only the faintest degree of colour) did not allow Anne Bullen to extend herself as much as she later did for Monica Edwards’ first four books. These four stories all have full colour dustjackets which are delightful, in particular Wish for a Pony, which shows Cascade against a darkening sky: he is the sort of pony who must have cantered through many pony obsessed children’s childhood, a noble creature from a dream, and not at all the mud covered shaggy pony far more likely to be the average child’s experience.
However much those four Edwards dustjackets attracted the reader, the author was not keen. Monica Edwards felt constrained by the success of her first book, Wish for a Pony. She wanted to break out of the pony book mould, and Anne Bullen was not the illustrator to help her do this; generally better at ponies than at children, Monica Edwards thought Anne Bullen’s drawings of children were, she said in conversation with Jill Goulder, “too ill and bony looking.” Tamzin, the heroine of Wish for a Pony, was based on Edwards’ daughter, Shelley, who went and stayed with the Bullens in Dorset so she could be sketched. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as to me that drawing is charming, but after The Midnight Horse (Collins, 1949), Monica Edwards’ books were generally illustrated by Geoffrey Whittam.
It is true the ponies in Anne Bullen’s drawings emerge much more strongly than their riders, which is possibly why she illustrated only two of Violet Needham’s novels, The Black Riders and The Emerald Crown. Neither of these are pony stories, though their strongly Romantic setting and storylines are matched well by the quality of fantasy in the illustrations.
The books Anne Bullen illustrated in the 1950s were generally by minor authors, though she did illustrate a book for another pillar of the showing world, Glenda Spooner – The Silk Purse (Cassell, 1953). Glenda Spooner, a formidable woman, started Ponies of Britain and ran their very successful show.
Although Anne Bullen illustrated much fiction, she only made one excursion into it herself; this was Darkie, the Life Story of a Pony, which was co-written with Rosemary Oldfield, and illustrated by Anne. The two other books she wrote are both non-fiction: Showing Ponies, published after her death, and Ponycraft, a short book combining the basics of looking after and riding a pony with a survey of British Native Pony breeds.
The Catherston Stud still continues. Anne Bullen died on 22nd December 1963 after fighting cancer for five years, and when her husband died in 1966, the Stud was taken over by Anne’s daughter, Jennie, and her husband Anthony Loriston-Clarke. The Stud now breeds horses rather than ponies, but most of their stallions are descended from the pony mares Anne and Jack Bullen bred. The Catherston Stud has since been sold after Jennie Loriston Clarke’s retirement.
Links and sources
Horse & Hound, 20th May 2010
Hilary Clare, and her article for Girls Gone By’s edition of Violet Needham’s The Black Riders
Brian Parkes – Monica Edwards: the Authorised Biography, Girls Gone By, 2010
The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators
An interview with Jennie Loriston-Clarke in Breeding News
The Catherston Stud Website (older version)
Photos of the Bullen Family taken from “Showing Ponies”
This article was originally written for Fidra Books’ newsletter
WRITTEN & ILLUSTRATED BY ANNE BULLEN
Darkie, the Life Story of a Pony
(by Rosamund Oldfield & Anne Bullen) Country Life 1950
Blandford Press, 1956
J A Allen, 1964
BOOKS ILLUSTRATED BY ANNE BULLEN
Joanna Cannan : A Pony For Jean
John Lane, 1936
Joanna Cannan: We Met Our Cousins
Golden Gorse: Janet and Felicity, The Young Horsebreakers
Country Life, 1937
Joanna Cannan: Another Pony For Jean
Garland Bullivant: Fortune’s Foal
Country Life, 1938
Joanna Cannan: London Pride
Walter Headford Brooke: Gladeye, The War Horse
Joanna Cannan: More Ponies For Jean
Joanna Cannan: Hamish, the Story of a Shetland Pony
Puffin Picture Books, 1944
Diana Pullein-Thompson: I Wanted a Pony
Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Six Ponies
Diana Pullein-Thompson: Three Ponies and Shannan
Josephine Pullein-Thompson: I Had Two Ponies
Monica Edwards,: Wish for a Pony
Monica Edwards: No Mistaking Corker
Monica Edwards: The Summer of the Great Secret
Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Plenty of Ponies
Monica Edwards: The Midnight Horse
Diana Pullein-Thompson: A Pony To School
Naomi Wainwright: Island Pony Club
Country Life, 1950
Marjorie Elspeth Procter: The Pony Trackers
Blandford Press, 1952
Glenda Spooner: The Silk Purse
Anna Hale: Blue Indian Mystery
Blandford Press, 1954
Marjorie Elspeth Procter: The Treasure Riders
Blandford Press, 1955
Geoffrey Lapage: A Red Rosette
Daphne Machin Goodall: Silver Spring and Other Stories
H F & G Witherby, 1958
Geoffrey Lapage: A Pony Every Time
Christine Pullein-Thompson: For Want of a SaddleBurke, 1960
Diana Tuke: A Long Road to HarringayCassell, 1960
Christine Pullein-Thompson: The Empty FieldBurke, 1961
Christine Leslie: Four Start a Riding ClubMax Parrish, 1963
ILLUSTRATED BY ANNE BULLEN
Gordon Winter: The Horseman’s Week-End Book
Seeley, Service & Co, London 1937
Violet Needham: The Black Riders
Elenour Sinclair Rohde & Eric Parker: The Gardener’s Week-End Book
Seeley, Service & Co, London 1939
Ruth Manning Sanders: Mystery at Penarth
Violet Needham: The Emerald Crown
Olivia Fitz Roy: Steer by the Stars
R S Summerhays: Riding on a Small Income
Jennie Lorriston-Clarke: Going Forward
J A Allen, 2001