The Allan and Janet Woodliffe Collection of Medals Relating to the Reconquest and Pacification of the Sudan (18 May 2011)

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Date of Auction: 18th May 2011

Sold for £4,600

Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000

Four: Rene Bull, the famous Edwardian artist and book illustrator who was a War Artist and Correspondent for “Black & White” Magazine in the Tirah Expedition, at Omdurman and in the Boer War, prior to serving in the R.N.V.R. and R.N.A.S. during the Great War and finally dying aged 68 while employed at the Air Ministry during the 1939-45 War

Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, no clasp (Mr. Rene Bull. “Black & White”); British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaf (Lt. Commr. R. Bull, R.N.V.R.) rank officially corrected on War Medal; Khedive’s Sudan 1896-1908, 2 clasps, The Atbara, Khartoum, unnamed as issued, the first and last with edge bruises and polished, otherwise very fine and better (4) £1500-2000

Footnote

M.I.D. London Gazette 26 April 1918: ‘for valuable services rendered whilst serving in the experimental section, Aircraft Depot, Dunkirk, during the period July 1916 to December 1917.’

Rene Bull was born in Ireland in 1872, probably in Dublin, to a British father and French mother, and a large part of his life was spent in France. While studying engineering in Paris he met the humorous illustrator Caran d'Ache (Emmanuel Poire) and, much inspired, he returned to London to study art in order to become an illustrator and artist. He swiftly became a popular illustrator, and his work appeared in many magazines ranging from The Illustrated London News to The Sketch. He also became a popular designer of comic postcards.

Bull joined the staff of the Black & White news magazine, and quickly became known as one of Britain's most talented war artists. He was appointed "special correspondent" for the Black & White magazine and covered the Armenian massacres during the war in Greece, where he was captured by both the Turks and the Greeks! He went on to cover the Tirah campaign on the North West frontier of India (see Black and White War Albums - Snapshots by René Bull, Vol. 3. Tirah), and the Omdurman campaign in the Sudan, where apparently he built a rostrum of bamboo poles in order to film the charge of the Dervishes at the battle of Omdurman.

Unfortunately the movie camera broke down, so we have to be satisfied with his black and white snapshots. (see
Black and White War Albums - Snapshots by René Bull, Vol. 1. Khartoum, Vol. 2. Atbara). Finally, he was sent to cover the Boer War in South Africa. He was on the last train that left Ladysmith before the Boer siege began, and witnessed most of the major battles in Natal and on the Tugela.

He was greatly influenced by Oriental art, and his travels to the Middle East gave him an insight into Arab customs and costume, which led to some of his greatest and most admired book illustrations, The Arabian Nights (1912) and The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam (1913). His Edwardian book illustrations included Jean de la Fontaine's Fables (1905) and Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus (1906).

Rene Bull was a first class artist and a brilliantly comic illustrator. His version of The Arabian Nights is one of the best, no subject being beyond his imagination or wonderful comic invention. He was plagiarised in the U.S.A. when his small black and white line drawings, with which he decorated his chapter headings, were used by the U.S. publisher Dodd Mead in the E. J. Detmold edition of 1925 unacknowledged. His black and white drawings were also used without acknowledgement in an edition published by The John C. Winston Company, Philadelphia, in 1920. This edition included four inept colour plates with one paste-down on the cover, done in a grossly sentimental style by Adelaide H. Bolton. The ‘Sixty Illustrations’ were all taken from the original Rene Bull edition of 1912. The publication was repeated for schools in 1924 with the illustrator's name changed to Adeline H. Bolton.

Bull illustrated dozens of books including, La Fontains Fables, 1905, The Russian Ballet, 1913, Carmen, 1940. In The Strand Magazine, he illustrated P. G. Wodehouse’s The Best Sauce and many others. One of his graphic sketches for Black & White was used by Pat Hodgson for the dust wrapper of his book The War Illustrators (Osprey Publishing, 1977). An exhibition of Rene Bull's paintings was held in London in 1907 and 1911.

With a folder of copied research including extracts from the Black and White Budget; together with three books, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; The Arabian Nights (2) - all with illustrations by Rene Bull.

On 13 March 1916, Bull joined the R.N.V.R. as a Temporary Lieutenant and in July was posted to R.N.A.S. Dunkirk in the experimental section. On 30 June he was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant-Commander R.N.V.R. From September 1917 to 31 March 1918 he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps at Dunkirk, and on 1 April 1918, he was transferred to the newly formed R.A.F. with the rank of Captain (temp. Major) for service with the Technical Branch. He was promoted to substantive Major on 7 November 1918, and was transferred to the unemployed list and discharged on 4 June 1919.

Note: War correspondents were not entitled to the Queen’s Sudan Medal.

Bull served again with the Royal Air Force in 1940, on Technical Duties at the Air Ministry, at the age of 68, and was still working there when he died in April 1942.


Rene Bull was a great enthusiast of model railways and was able to construct his own working locomotives. He never married, and was able to construct a series of tracks which ran round the dining room of his flat in Baron's Court, London. He died on 13 April 1942, while living at Blackwater, Hampshire.

Sold with two original copies of The Arabian Nights, illustrated by Bull - the adult copy with sixteen coloured plates, and the children’s version with eight (different) plates, and also a nice original copy of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, wonderfully illustrated by Bull.