Sidney H Sime

Sidney Herbert Sime (1865-1941) was a talented artist, illustrator and caricaturist.

Born in Manchester, Sime’s family was poor, and at a young age he was sent to work in the Yorkshire mining pits where conditions were bleak. Later he became a successful signwriter, enabling him to study at the Liverpool School of Art, where he won prizes. Moving to London, his extraordinary imagination was soon noticed by the artist and writer Jerome K Jerome, artist, who was editor of The Idler. He became a prolific illustrator, for many magazines including the Illustrated London News, Pall Mall, Graphic, Tatler, Pick-Me-Up, and Punch, during the late 1890s and early 1900s in particular.

In 1904 – following his marriage in 1898 and a move to Scotland – Sime settled in Crown Cottage, Worplesdon, an old coaching inn with a stable block that he converted into his studio. He frequented the New Inn opposite, later sketching caricatures of the local working men and tradesmen.

He enjoyed visiting London’s gentlemen’s clubs, where he mixed with like-minded members including his musical friends Duncan Tovey and Joseph Holbrooke, the latter with whom he would collaborate on Bogey Beasts, a book of pictures and verses by Sime with music by Holbrooke.

A keen visitor to the theatre, Sime would often sketch famous performers. Between 1909–1910, he designed theatre sets for Maeterlinck’s The Bluebird and Ibsen’s ‘The Pretenders’ for his wealthy patron and polymath aristocrat, Lord Howard de Walden. Sime also illustrated books for Lord Dunsany, another aristocrat and friend whose fascination for fantasy writing matched Sime’s brilliant imagination.

Disillusioned by the First World War, Sime resumed his passion for painting. Working in watercolours and oils became very important to him, more so than the reputation he had made working as an illustrator.

However, despite his prolific output, he held only two main exhibitions during his lifetime. In later life he became a recluse, painting only when it pleased him. He died on 22 May 1941 and his work became little known, only to be resurrected recently.