Hans was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 21st February 1917 but after residing there
for only eighteen months moved to Highgate, London when his father (Jakob)
took up a position as lecturer in Danish at University College.
When Hans was six his mother (Augusta Egerta Pilegaard Jessen) became ill and they decamped to St. Paul de Vance in the south of France for six months for the climate. While Hans was there film director Jean Renoir, son of artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, recruited him and his sister (Marianne) to be extras in a scene where there was a car accident. They were to scream, in a silent film, but Hans had enough after a while and refused to go on. The film was 'Catherine Ou Une Vie Sans Joie' and Hans can just be seen in the long shots but had disappeared for the close ups!
|When back in Britain the family would
returned to their house in the woods in Denmark for the long summer
holidays where Hans helped
out at a local farm herding cows and driving the tractor.
Hans started school at Byron House and at an early age he preferred picture books because of their marvellous illustrations such as Tenniel's 'Alice in Wonderland'. He later moved to King Alfred's School in Hampstead where he confessed he was only interested in painting. His mother was a gifted artist having attended the Academy of Copenhagen before she was married.
When he was fifteen Hans went to work on a farm in Denmark where his job was to care for the horses. The farmer wrote a weekly 'Letter from the Country' for a national daily newspaper and Hans started doing the illustrations for it; his first drawings to be published.
|After a year on the farm Hans returned
to London to the Hornsey School of Art, then the Heatherley School of
Art and later to Norway to study at
the Royal Academy in Oslo.
While he was there Hans got the opportunity to crew on a ship that sailed to the Orkneys where he painted many landscapes and seascapes and even held an open air exhibition before returning to Oslo.
|Later Hans was asked if he'd like to crew in America and so in 1939 he set off on the 'Kungsholm' to the States. Things didn't turn out as planned but thanks to letters of introduction he got work painting book covers.|
|In 1942, with the US
having entered WWII, Hans enlisted in
the United States Army at Fort Dix where after a week he was promoted to
Corporal. He then managed to get transferred to the ski troops at
Camp Hale but while there caught double pneumonia and scarlet fever
resulting in him being hospitalised for six months. On being
released he found he was now in the jungle troop but later when fully
recovered Hans became attached to the Air Transport Command as a war
artist, painting and drawing for magazines to inform the public of the
work of the A.T.C.
As the war progressed he found himself stationed in Paris, then Germany and later went to the Front.
In June 1995 the Department of Defence 50th Anniversary of World War II Commemoration Committee honoured the war artists with an exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington. The artists whose works were displayed included a painting by Hans.
|After the war was over Hans returned to Copenhagen to spend time with friends before returning to England.|
|In London Hans met actress Jane Barrett and they married in 1947|
|Just before Christmas, Jane was asked to go out to
Australia to film 'Eureka Stockade' and Hans accompanied her. En route
they meet Frank Lauder making ''The Blue Lagoon' and Hans found himself
designing things that looked as though they may have been found or made
on an island.
Soon after they arrived in Sidney, Hans was diagnosed with meningitis and spent time in hospital before going to Alice Springs to do some painting. When the film was finished he and Jane travelled to America where Hans joined up with John Locke, a New York artists agency.
|After about a year he did his own children's book
about 'Roy Rogers' followed by many more with a cowboy theme.
|It was in 1950 that Hans became a father to a daughter, Cathy with her mother named on the certificate as Catherine Mary Cracknell, Jane Barrett's real name.|
|While in the States Hans worked for Western Printing, Doubleday, Viking and several other publishers but in 1958 he returned to England to work with John Martin & Artists Ltd where he spent the next six or seven years painting the covers he would be so well known for if most of them weren't anonymous. I hope to correct this and correctly attribute as many as I can. Hans also worked for Danish publishers illustrating classics such as 'Oliver Twist'|
|Unfortunately Jane died in 1969 and later Hans
married Sue Bell.
In 1971 Hans collaborated with Michael Bond on the the first 'Olga da Polga' title (probably for which Hans is best remembered) and the follow up titles plus the 'Oggy' tales from Anne Lawrence.
In 1983 Hans and Sue moved to Herefordshire where their mill cottage and land is half in England and half in Wales. Hans continued to paint in his studio until he died on the 23rd June 2008 when his ashes were scattered in the garden and in his old family home in Tibirke Bakker, Denmark. Below is a photo of Hans showing his loyalty to Denmark by drinking Carlsberg. It was taken on the sundeck over looking the brook.
A self portrait Hans did in 1998 when he was 81.
|I would like to say a very big 'Thank you' to Sue for allowing my wife and I into her home, to show us where the artist worked in his studio, so many original artworks for covers and for letting us have an insight into the life of Hans Heinrich Helweg.|
|Currently trying to find as many examples of
Hans work as I can, a work in progress.
Click HERE to see some of Hans children's books.
Click HERE to see some of Hans PAN Book covers.
Click HERE to see other works by Hans.