For many of these artists, it’s difficult to find anything out about them and Ben Ostrick is no exception. I had a small piece of luck in finding a ‘Between Friends’ feature on him and his family once I’d started scouring the magazines for his work. I also managed to find an interesting fact through my internet ‘rummaging’. More on this later…
‘Between Friends’ is an editorial feature at the start of the Woman’s Own magazines. They usually chose a couple of people featured within the magazine that issue, to expand on either their home life or context to the feature they had produced. Luckily for me, this particular edition gave a few autobiographical details about Ben Ostrick:
“What started us humming it was Benjamin Ostrick’s lovely illustration to Paul Smith’s romantic story, ‘Some Enchanted Evening,’ on Page 8… His particular Enchanted Evening had nothing to do with the South Sea Islands. He found his story, and the mood for it, in the same spot in Paris, where, by a remarkable coincidence, Benjamin Ostrick, the artist, on holiday with his wife last summer stood skitching – the Sacre Coeur on top of Montmartre.
Knowing Paris and its atmosphere of romance, you may say that was hardly a coincidence. But it’s surely remarkable that although the artist had never met the author, Ostrick should be ready to capture on the easel the exact mood of Paul Smith’s story.
“Learning the hard way
In the picture on this page you see Ostrick, in a different mood, at home in his flat near Clapham Common, London. That’s how we caught him – baby worshipping – the object of devotion being his seven-month old daughter Lisa Dawn.
Ostrick has packed a great deal of experience into his thirty-four years. At fourteen, he turned his back on a newly won scholarship to become a printer’s boy, at half-crown a week – for one week only.
Then he was articled to a studio, where he washed brushes, mixed paints, and swept the floor for fourteen-and-twopence a week.
But he was learning all the time and soon, in another studio, he did a cinema display painting of Donald Duck which brought applause from the boss and that gave him confidence.
“So he went from studio to studio until the war came along, and then he met Marie, now his wife.
With £80 saved up, he started his own studio near Piccadilly, with Marie doing modelling and secretarial work.
She does no modelling now – too busy, with baby and Benjamin to look after!
Ostrick sold the studio some time ago, and set up as a freelance – and a very busy one he is.”
I think the woman in this picture looks a little like his wife, Marie. And Ostrick himself seems to appear (as a younger man) in this one:
I adore the woman’s daisy brooch on this picture. Notice Ostrick’s signature on the bottom left. It doesn’t appear on all of his work.
As is typical for women’s magazines at this time, many of the pictures depict submissive women in a passionate pose with a dominant man. It wasn’t the done thing for a lady to do the chasing back then…
The colours on that one are particularly wonderful. I should point out that, as in previous illustration posts, the titles I’m giving the pictures come from the name of the stories they accompany. I don’t know what the real name of each piece would be, but this seems as good a way as any to identify them. The dates are from when the magazine was published.
These next two pictures differ slightly in their style:
Neither of these show a kiss, and ‘Strangers May Kiss’ looks different in style and intensity of colours used to me. Note the charm bracelet the woman is wearing – very fashionable in the 1950s.
Ostrick worked for the Artist’s Partners Agency in London, as did Aubrey Rix and many other noted illustrators of the era. However, there is literally nothing about him on their website. According to the Travelling Art Gallery website, Ostrick designed covers for the ‘John Bull’ and ‘Romance’ magazines. I also found a link to a James Bond front cover, when on another site it named Ostrick as the illustrator under the alias ‘J. Oval’.
The signature looks typed, so that’s difficult to compare. However, the style and ‘look’ of the woman seems to match with Ostrick’s other work. Once you search for J. Oval on the internet, you find quite a few of the ‘Romance’ type novels being credited to his name. Here is a good example of some of them. I’m not posting any here though as, to my unqualified eyes, the quality does not look as good as the images he created under his own name, with the exception of the James Bond cover.
- Woman’s Own magazines from personal collection, 1951-1955
- Travelling Art Gallery
- Advertising Archives