Robert Ingpen’s passion for conservation reflected in children’s books

Continuing on from the earlier two posts on Robert Ingpen this one is dedicated to his interest in conservation.

Prior to becoming a freelance illustrator, in the late 1950’s Ingpen worked for the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which has engaged him to interpret new findings to the public through design and illustration. Of that experience Ingpen says:

“…the CSIRO people enthralled me by the discipline of their thinking…The scientific discipline is so formidable a discipline for life that no artist should be without it”.¹

It was during those early years that Ingpen’s life-long passion for conservation has germinated. Michael Page notes that Ingpen became “scientifically aware” of the environmental and ecological threats a lot earlier than most of us and that “his activities have led him far more deeply into the very foundations of ecology than the average “conservationist” would ever dream of”

Ingpen was one of the founding members of Australian Conservation Foundation, has worked with the UN missions on their trips to Mexico and Peru and often brought the need for environmental care into focus through his work. He has illustrated some great Colin Thiele’s children’s books celebrating living harmoniously with one’s natural environment (“Storm Boy”, “River Murray Mary” and others), he has co-authored with Margaret Dunkle and illustrated the “Conservation” picture book sub-titled “A thoughtful way of explaining conservation to children”, created imaginary gnome-guardians caring for wild life and environment in his fantasy work “Australian Gnomes”…

Check back later for separate reviews of these and other children’s books on conservation and natural environment.

South Australian author Michael Page who worked with Ingpen closely has reflected on his “complete though complex personality” as follows:

“This complexity is reflected in his ever-expanding versatility, based upon a great and diverse range of interests linked only by creative inspiration. At any given moment he is likely to be engaged upon projects as diverse as the illustrations for a book of verse, the planning of a Creative Activities Centre for Geelong College, the writing and illustrating of children’s book to follow up on his “Australian Gnomes”, the preliminary designs for a cheese factory to be opened on the Belarine Peninsula and the planning of a book to give new insights into Australian history. And these are only the things which he would actually tell you about. Behind them are many other projects and ideas still gestating, offers he is considering, thoughts he is formulating. There is a Leonardo-like scope to his abilities and interest and a startling blend of realism and surrealism in his solutions to problems”.³

¹ Angela Ingpen and Michael Page, 1980, Robert Ingpen, Macmillan Company of Australia, Melbourne, p.6
² Ibid, p.48
³ Ibid, p.88

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lyn lacy
1 year ago

I admire your work. I am blog posting soon on ‘Children’s Classics Revisted” about Ingpen;s series and thank you for giving me extra insight, info and art, which I credit to your blog.

lyn lacy
1 year ago

HEllo and thanks,
Have you looked at fellow Australian Bruce Whatley? He’s also a favorite. His Cat with the Fiddle in Nursery Rhyme book and Night Before Christmas are both so good. Also really like Scott Gustafson. I’m coming up with Loren Long and Erin Stead maybe this summer. Who are you recommending these days?
Best, Lyn

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