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The Rowland Emett Society

Founded in 2012

Copyright for Rowland Emett's work rests with the Artist's estate.

Silhouette 2 Rowland Emett

Frederick Rowland Emett (both Roland and Emmett can appear in various sources) was born in Bowes Park, North London on 22nd October 1906, the son of Arthur Emett and his wife Elizabeth Alice .


Rowland was very much the product of his genes. His grandfather, William Emett born in 1832 in Frenchay, Bristol had been a lithographic draughtsman working, for part of his career at least, for the Ordnance Survey, in Southampton. By 1863 he and his wife Hentrietta (Boulter) from Leicester were in London raising a family.During his time in London he was a court engraver to Queen Victoria, an example of his work being part of ther Royal Collection. The third son of that marriage was Rowland's father, Arthur.


Arthur Emett was born in Kensington in 1869 and became an advertising agent with a string of patents to his name for everything from a cigarette case that dispensed its contents to an inflating volume control for early gramophones (which was patented on behalf of Rowland) to advertising displays and folding postcards. Rowland himself also later had one patent to his name, for a folding postcard!


Arthur Emett was originally based at a number of addresses in London including Nightingale Lane in Wandsworth and 'Eskdale', Natal Road, Bowes Park, where Rowland Emett was born, but, around the start of the First World War, he moved the family to a house at 24 Tennyson Road in the Small Heath district of Birmingham.


Rowland went to Waverley Grammar School, a few minutes walk away across Small Heath Park, and would have been familiar with an area known for its engineering industry, with the massive BSA, Lanchester and Alldays and Onions car works being close by. He later dedicated one of his books 'Far Twittering' to G James Allday who made cars under the name of PDA (Pickering, Darby and Allday) and may have been associated with Alldays and Onions, though not a close relative.


After Waverley, Rowland went to the Birmingham School of Art then known as the 'Central School of Arts and Crafts'. The school was a well-respected centre of artistic excellence and numbered Eric Gill, the sculptor, amongst its visiting tutors. Gill had moved to found an artistic community in Ditchling in Sussex in 1907 and it was in Ditchling that Emett was to eventually base himself.


Like his father, Rowland worked in advertising during the 1930s and continued developing his artistic skills whilst working in Birmingham for Siviter Smith the process engravers, like his grandfather. In 1931 his father died at the family home in Sandbourne Road, Alum Rock.


In that same year he had one of his paintings 'Cornish Harbour' exhibited at the Royal Academy and it is now (apparently) in the Tate Collection. A workmate at Siviters submitted a humerous article to Punch and had it accepted so Emett, impressed that money could be earned from publishing works, tried his hand at cartooning and submitted his first to Punch magazine, only to have it rejected. The Art Editor at Punch, Kenneth Bird (alias 'Fougasse') put a note on his effort saying "Not quite, but very ingenious".  and encouraged him to "try again" and he did, submitting seven more cartoons, five of which were eventually published.


He continued sending in cartoons whilst still maintaining the 'day job' but his career in advertising illustration was interrupted by the Second World War and Emett was drafted to become a draughtsman for the Air Ministry. He worked in a team with experts from Rolls Royce checking the viability of his designs and reckoned that he had been responsible, single -handedly, for putting an extra foot onto the length of a Stirling Bomber's fuselage be cause he "didn't have the faintest idea what he was doing".On 12 April 1941, whilst still engaged in war work he married Elsie May Evans (known as Mary) the daughter of a silversmith in Birmingham and she effectively became his business manager as well as his wife.


Tennyson Road

Tennyson Road, Small Heath