artist in Cambridgeshire

My Visit To Ann Hogarth And Muffin

Muffin the Mule Collectors' Club Newsletter
No.20 February 2006

Although I had previously written in the Newsletter (Newsletter 12, June 2003) concerning my research for a painting I did about Muffin the Mule (using Muffin as an icon for the 1950s), I'd never recorded the wonderful day I spent with Ann Hogarth and all her 'Muffin puppets', 14 years ago.

When I started the project, I had written to Ann to ask if I might be permitted to draw and photograph the puppets sometime. Back came a swift reply from her daughter, Sally, that, yes of course I could come, and which weekend would suit me! Sally mentioned that even though her mother was well over eighty and rather forgetful, she would enjoy showing me Muffin and his friends.

I set off from Cambridge for Budleigh Salterton and was met by Sally at a very busy Exeter Station late on Friday night. Before delivering me to my B&B, we arranged to meet at Ann's flat the next morning. Armed with sketchbook, camera and a bunch of flowers I was ushered into Ann's bedroom where we all had coffee! Although Ann seemed rather frail (and for all I knew, bedridden) she seemed pleased to see me and keen that I should get to work as soon as possible.

As I recall, all the puppets were hung from two enormous brackets attached to the wall of Ann's spacious lounge. Sally left soon after I started with the words "Don't worry about Mother; I'll ring you later to see how you are both getting on!"

I then commandeered a handy standard lamp to hang each puppet from in turn, so I could photograph and draw from them. I must admit I felt rather nervous about being left in charge of all these famous puppets and only hoped my drawing could adequately record them in the short time I had. I am no great photographer (and this was the time before digital cameras) so just hoped the pictures were being recorded on the camera I had borrowed. (Yes! They came out, thank goodness) I decided early on, to work through lunch as this was too good an opportunity to think about food.

After about an hour of furious drawing, Ann appeared, now dressed and ready to take the neighbour's dog for a walk along the sea front. She seemed to get stronger and livelier as the day wore on and I soon realised that Ann was very much a 'night person'. She remarked as she was passing by, that while I had caught a good likeness of Peter, Peregrine wasn't nearly fierce enough!

When I asked Ann where Monty the Monkey was, she remarked that he 'Wasn't much of a puppet' and so had returned him to the main collection of Hogarth Puppets. Sally rang about mid day to invite Ann and me for supper and for me to meet her husband Derek. She arranged to collect us at 6pm so I knew I only had about 30 minutes for each drawing.

In the end I made eleven drawings and took photographs of each puppet from different angles. Ann was very amusing and had a wicked sense of humour. At supper she, Derek and Sally were a fund of stories about their travels and I count it a great privilege to have met them. As Ann died six months later, it made the whole experience even more special.


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