Harold Cecil Earnshaw, known as “Pat” to friends and family, was born in Woodford, Essex, in 1886, the sixth of nine children. His grandfather was Rector of Sheffield University and his father, Frederick, had left Yorkshire to join a firm of scientific instrument makers in the south. Pat met Mabel Lucie Attwell while studying at St Martin’s School of Art in Central London. They married in June 1908.
A talented artist in his own right, Pat would never achieve the fame of his spouse, whose nostalgic drawings of children were hugely popular. Yet he had a warm, cheery style of painting and his humorous pictures were regular features of The Bystander and The Tatler. Husband and wife often worked together in the studio and collaborated on pictures – Pat often painting the less “Atwellish” parts, such as animals or scenery.
During the First World War, Pat joined the Artists’ Rifles and was a Lance-Corporal in the Sussex Regiment when he was wounded at the Somme in 1916, losing his right (drawing) arm. Undeterred, he quickly trained himself to draw with his left, a remarkable feat documented by illustrations in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Graphic shortly after being discharged from hospital.
Despite his determination to overcome his injuries and sustaining a career in illustration beyond the war, he never fully recovered and died prematurely. His gravestone reads: “In Memory of Harold Cecil Earnshaw, who died from war wounds on March 17th 1937, aged 51 years.”