The London Sketch Club still remains one of London’s best-kept secrets, in spite of surviving for over a century. The birth of the Sketch Club in 1898 was due to a largish group that included luminaries such as Phil May and Tom Browne breaking away from the Langham Club after an argument about whether hot or cold food should be served during their evening sketching sessions. When war broke out in 1939 many of its artists members joined the Artist’s Rifles, others became war artists and those remaining became political cartoonists, including David Chilchik who achieved the honour of being put on Hitler’s black list.
The spectacular Pudding with Puccini evening was organised by Roy Ackerman, CBE, who has given a life-time of service to the hospitality industry and talent-spotted many celebrity chefs. He has the coveted Catey’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the Hospitality industry, published 30 books and produced 6 major TV programmes.
Don Grant, ex-president of the club opened the evening by introducing some of the past luminaries depicted in the silhouettes on the wall. In the heyday of graphic art when skilled artists and illustrators sold the many publications that existed, the ability to tell a story or a joke in a few lines was paramount. (Until recently, Punch was one of the last remaining survivors of this era). He first mentioned John Hassall who everybody knows as the man who illustrated the poster "Skegness-It's so bracing". He pointed out Heath Robinson, one of three gifted artist brothers, renowned for his improbably impossible machines; the only artist whose name is in the Oxford Dictionary. Next to him was Cecil Aldin, who was famous for his fox and hound hunting prints. Then there was the figure of Phil May, cheroot clamped in his mouth, a hugely gifted draughtsman who earned big fees and who was generous to a fault. As a prodigious drinker he would often stride into a pub and buy everybody in the establishment a drink. This took its toll and he sadly died young. Then there was H M Bateman who was renowned for his series of cartoons of people doing the wrong thing at the wrong time "The Man who...” Edmund Dulac was known for his exquisite pictures of fairies. Don pointed out that even Baden-Powell, author of Scouting for Boys, had been a member and was a fine watercolourist.
The pudding was further sweetened by Andrew Bain and Amanda Forbes spell binding the audience with songs from Puccini’s La Boheme. They were accompanied by Jonathan Beattie on the piano.
Not a dry eye was to be seen.