Sunday, 4 March 2018

George Gammon: Artist at London Zoo with his own cricket team

There was a strange comment in the Bartlett Society’s Newsletter (152, February 2018). In discussing the twin brothers who went on insect and small reptile collecting trips and then presented their finds to London Zoo, John and George Newmark, the artist George Gammon, who illustrated their book, To the Zoo in a Plastic Box, is mentioned. The author of the piece in the Newsletter could find no record of Gammon. However, a simple Google search for the name soon reveals what George Gammon’s rôle was at the Zoo and some old magazines also provide information.

George Gammon was I supposed what one might call a commercial artist who was employed by the zoo to paint scenes on the back of cages, identification pictures for cage labels and the like. He also, as the photograph below shows, was roped into painting an Indian-style pattern on the head of an elephant for a parade.

Embed from Getty Images

The April 1956 issue of Water Life magazine shows a photograph of Gammon painting the back of a lizard cage and states that he had worked at the zoo for 32 years, i.e. he started in 1922. Similar photographs appeared in the newspapers at the same time from what was clearly a Zoo publicity exercise.

Water Life, April 1956

Then on 10 January 1959, the Children’s Newspaper has a photograph of him with Chi-Chi, the Giant Panda. Gammon, it stated was making a ‘tapestry portrait’ of ’35,000 stitches’.

There is also mention, again from a Zoo press release, in an American newspaper of his having painted a panorama of the Nile on the wall of the crocodile enclosure—with the crocodiles for company.

And then I discovered he had his own cricket team, the Gammon XI:

I have not been able to find anything of George Gammon beyond this but the archives in the ZSL Library should have the information.