Watercolours by illustrator behind The Church Mice series to be sold
Original watercolours by illustrator and author behind the bestselling Church Mice children’s books are set to fetch £100,000 at auction
- Graham Oakley’s books were published between 1970 and the year 2000
- They featured a cat called Sampson and a mouse named Arthur
For decades, the the adventures of a ginger feline and his rodent friends in the fictional town of Wortlethorpe caught the imagination of millions of British children.
Published between 1970 and the year 2000, Graham Oakley’s Church Mice book series was a huge hit with young readers and their parents.
Now, you can get your hands on some of the original illustrations as more than 750 works by the artist, who died last December aged 93, are set to fetch up to £100,000 at auction.
Mr Oakley’s books featured a cat called Sampson who was taught not to kill mice, and so they instead became his friends and allies.
Holed up in Wortlethorpe’s church, the animals had many adventures under titles including The Church Mice in Action and the Church Mice Spread Their Wings.
More than 750 illustrations by the author of the Church Mice book series are set to fetch up to £100,000 at auction. Above: Sampson the cat seen with rioting church mice in one of the drawings
Published between 1970 and the year 2000, Graham Oakley’s Church Mice book series was a huge hit with young readers and their parents. Above: Sampson with mice on a makeshift raft
The warm-hearted works were widely praised for their richly detailed illustrations and their witty ironic humour, with the books appealing to children and adults alike.
Mr Oakley died aged 93 in Dorchester, Dorset, and left his studio archive to benefit the charity Save the Children in his will.
As well as his drawings, the sale includes his personal paint box and art supplies. They are being sold via Charterhouse Auctioneers, of Sherborne in Dorset.
His collection of drawings, book cover illustrations and even his personal paint box and art supplies are now going under the hammer at Charterhouse Auctioneers.
There are more than 750 lots of original artwork that will be sold without reserve, with many of the Church Mice illustrations expected to sell for about £200 each.
Some of the watercolours are his original works for the front cover of books including The Church Mice in Action, The Church Mice at Bay and the Church Cat Abroad.
Graham Oakley died last December at the age of 93. The first book in his series, simply titled The Church Mouse, was published in 1972
The warm-hearted works were widely praised for their richly detailed illustrations and their witty ironic humour, with the books appealing to children and adults alike
Sampson the cat is seen with his mice friends and an angry-looking vicar in the church where they live
Sampson the cat – dressed as a pirate – is seen with two mice in another illustration
Mr Oakley went to art school but his studies were interrupted when he was called up for national service in 1947. Above: Another of his illustrations
Richard Bromell, of Charterhouse, said: ‘Graham sadly passed away in Dorchester last year.
‘He is perhaps most famous for his positively charming Church Mice book series and in his will he generously left his studio archive to benefit Save the Children.
‘He had them all in blue box files labelled with which book they were from in his spare bedroom, which he turned into a studio.
‘The illustrations are all very charming. They are bright and colourful, very detailed and beautifully drawn and executed.
‘His stories had wonderful morals – Sampson the cat was taught not to kill mice so he protected them and ended up with quite a big extended family.
‘For those that remember the books, these drawings put a smile on their face and take them back to their childhood memories.’
Mr Oakley went to art school but his studies were interrupted when he was called up for national service in 1947.
Sampson the cat with his troope of mice is confronted by an angry woman in another of Mr Oakley’s illustrations
Sampson the cat watches on as the church mice lap up a bowl of milk
Sampson the cat is seen watching television with his rodent companions in another of Mr Oakley’s illustrations
Sampson battles another cat as his rodent friends look on
By 1977 the books were doing well enough for Mr Oakley to leave the BBC and focus on being an author
He went on to work as a set designer, first at a London theatre, then the Royal Opera House and finally the BBC.
The first book in his series, simply titled The Church Mouse, was published in 1972.
It was the start of the friendship between Sampson and Arthur, the main church mouse.
Mr Oakley was persuaded to carry on writing about the adventures of the two animals and their friends in the church and brought out several more in the 1970s.
By 1977 the books were doing well enough for Mr Oakley to leave the BBC and focus on being an author.
Several of the books were even nominated for and sometimes won major literary awards.
The Church Mice Adrift was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year and was nominated for a Kate Greenaway Medal in 1977.
He produced other books too and there are illustrations from those in the sale, such as the Foxbury Force, about a team of fox detectives in the 1990s.
The collection will be sold in Sherborne on September 27.
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