Wood engraving artist and children's writer dies following long illness

Cordelia Gidney sitting in a blue dress and glasses smiling at the camera

Cordelia Gidney, previously Jones, was best known for her talents engraving wood and her children’s literature - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A “much-loved” talented artist and writer from Norwich has died following a long illness.

Cordelia Margaret Gidney, previously Jones, was best known for her talents engraving wood and her children’s literature. 

Born on April 9, 1936, she studied painting at The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, after which she spent a year in Rome on a scholarship.  

She was later introduced to wood engraving by Pat Jaffé, while reading a degree in Fine Art in Cambridge, and became inspired by the work of English wood engraver and natural history author, Thomas Bewick. 

Cordelia Gidney's wood engraving of a toddler and a cow

Cordelia Jones' wood engraving of a toddler and a cow - Credit: SUPPLIED

Cordelia had started to write novels for children and saw wood engraving as the perfect medium to illustrate the printed word.


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After her first book, Nobody’s Garden, which appeared with illustrations by another artist in 1964, she decided to illustrate her second book herself.

During the same year, she moved to Norwich to teach art history at Norwich Art School.  

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In 1968, she gave up teaching to spend more time on her own work.

Her second book, A Cat called Camouflage, was published in 1970 and appeared with engraved illustrations.

She believed that the printing processes did not do justice to the fine detail so, for a time, she decided not to do any more engraving.   

During this period, she made some striking paintings of the Norwich fair, which impressed the owners so much that they commissioned her to paint some displays for their rides. 

A painting of a child at the funfair

Cordelia Jones' travelling fairground painting - Credit: SUPPLIED

However, by 1973, she was engraving again and decided to buy her own press and find other ways of marketing her engravings.

The Arab press, which she acquired in 1977, enabled her to produce greetings cards, letterheads, and bookplates, both on her own initiative for general sale, as well as commissions.

Her third book, The View from the Window, appeared in 1978 with an engraved frontispiece. 

The following year, she married Louis Gidney and moved to Houghton St Giles, near Walsingham, a place that provided the setting for more books and inspiration for many engravings.   

Cordelia Jones and Louis Gidney on their wedding day in 1979

Cordelia Jones and Louis Gidney on their wedding day in 1979 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

In 1986, she illustrated Hobberdy Dick and Kate Crackernuts written by Katherine Briggs and published in Japanese by Iwanami.

Her illustrations to these two books led to various exhibitions in Japan, where her work sold well. In 1991, Iwanami published a Japanese translation of her earlier book, A Cat called Camouflage.  

Image of a printed wood engraving

Cordelia Jones' Hobberdy Dick illustration - Credit: SUPPLIED

Cordelia was a member of the Society of Wood Engravers and received many commissions throughout her career, including two from the National Trust.

She spent a week as "the artist at work" in Norwich Castle Museum in 1984 and regularly exhibited at the Norwich Print Fair.   

Norwich Castle Museum poster 1984

Norwich Castle Museum poster 1984 - Credit: SUPPLIED

In the mid-1980s, she moved to The Crescent, in Cromer, overlooking the sea on the north Norfolk coast.   

Finally, she continued engraving during her last two decades in Rosary Road, where she overlooked her beloved Norwich Cathedral. 

Her family said: “She was much-loved by her family, her stepchildren and their families, and by many friends.”   

Cordelia died on January 1. Her funeral took place at St Faith’s Crematorium on January 27 and a memorial service is being planned for a later date.  

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