First time at auction for beautful wildlife illustrations

Posted On: 23 Mar 2022 by Sue Cade

A fascinating collection of paintings and ephemera from children’s book illustrator Kenneth Lilly is being auctioned at our Pictures, Ceramics, Works of Art & Clocks sale in Honiton on April 9.


Originally from Bromley in Kent, Lilly was an avid admirer and observer of animal life from early childhood. He went on to study animal painting and anatomy at Sidcup College, and after following a successful career in advertising decided to concentrate full-time on painting and illustration.

Lilly and his family moved to East Devon when his son was offered a place at Allhallows School in Rousdon. He bought Poundwater, a country house in Farway where he lived until his death in 1996.

His passion for animal and birdlife shines through his book illustrations, many of which were published by Walker Books and latterly, Dorling Kindersley.

Included in the auction are a collection of stunning original artworks, some framed locally  in Honiton by Sturleys Picture Framing: illustrations from ‘The Squirrel’ by Margaret Lane,  and ‘Puss, Puss, Come to my Corner’ by William Mayne – where the Puss in question is actually a wild hare. There are several striking pictures of horses, which were a real passion for Lilly, plus more exotic creatures such as the greater Indian fruit bat.

Also for sale are a selection of notes, sketches, letters from Walker Books and art galleries across the world including New York where Lilly exhibited at the Exhibition of Original Illustrations in 1985, and Luxembourg’s Musée national d'histoire naturelle After Nature exhibition.

Several photo albums contain superb prints, Christmas card illustrations and first day covers of the Friends of the Earth Nature Conservation stamps from 1986 with Lilly’s pictures of a barn owl, pine marten, wild cat and natterjack toad.

Auctioneer Duncan Chilcott said: “It feels as though we have rediscovered a wonderful artistic talent not widely known about. Lilly’s paintings are exquisitely realised, with a huge amount of attention to detail and often with a lot of fun and character incorporated into the portraits of animals and birds.

“This is the first time these items have come to market. They will certainly be of interest to collectors of book illustrations, those who remember the books from their childhood and anyone who loves paintings of wildlife.”

This high quality collection has been divided into 14 lots, with estimates at between £50 and £200.