Monday, June 26, 2017

Lewis Lupton: The Michelangelo of Chiswick

Best known as the author of the 25-volume A History of the Geneva Bible (London: Fauconberg Press; The Olive Tree, 1966-1994), which was indeed his magnum opus as Peter Toon once wrote, Lewis Lupton was not only a church historian and writer, but also an artist, storyteller, theologian and loving husband and father. As David Martyn Lloyd-Jones once put it, "Mr. Lupton has not only the eye of an artist but also the nose of the true historian, and above all the understanding of one well versed in the Reformed faith." In the words of J.I. Packer, Mr. Lupton was "[a]n artist with brush and pen as well as words and wisdom." The story of his life and legacy is one that deserves to be more widely known.

Born on July 18, 1909, in Fulham, London, as the oldest of seven children, Lewis Frederick Lupton (known as "Luppy" to some) was recognized early to have a gift for artistic talent. His family moved to Sheffield -- where they attended the Mount Olivet Strict Baptist Chapel -- when he was very young, and after leaving school at the age of 12, he was given a scholarship to study at the Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts for a period of seven years. This is where he met (Phyllis) Joan Ainger, the future Mrs. Lupton. 

[Lewis Lupton self portrait, 1929.]

After their marriage in 1934, they moved to London the following year. Mr. Lupton was asked by a fellow Sheffielder, Victor Askew, to join his commercial art studio, Askew Younge Studios. While there he worked on advertising projects for a wide range of firms including Marconi, and P and O. In 1939, Mr. Lupton illustrated both Kathleen Conyngham Greene, The Rector's Second Daughter; and James Cahill, The Pilot of Indian Leap. In 1940, he illustrated Brian Reed, The World Goes By Machines, and he was the illustrator for Wilfrid Robertson, The Island Plot (1942), for Christopher Beck, et al., The Triumph Book for Boys (1942), for Violet M. Methley, Derry Down-Under (1943) and for S.C. George, Eagle of the Desert (1943). The Luptons later became members of the North Rd. Strict Baptist Chapel, Brentford, and meanwhile, their son Jude was born in 1939.

During World War II, he exhibited several oil paintings in the Royal Academy, some of which were chosen to tour the country. He was also a keen water color painter and never traveled without his easel and paints. During the war he needed to develop further commercial art clients and found work with City Display Organisation. As a conscientious objector he chose not to take work promoting the war effort, but designed posters for the Ministry of Fuel and Power, and Dig for Victory campaign. The house where the family was living in Chiswick was destroyed by bombing in 1941, but Jude was rescued unharmed from his cot. The family lived in temporary accommodations until they bought their current home in 1944. Two daughters, Esther and Julia, were born after the war, and the family later settled at Gunnersbury Baptist church in Chiswick.

After the war he illustrated many books published by Scripture Union (formerly the Children’s Special Service Mission or CSSM), and was encouraged in his work by his boss, A Morgan Derham. In 1948 he illustrated Mr. Derham’s On the Trail of the Windward: A Story of the Norfolk Broads, followed by Mr. Derham’s The Cruise of the Clipper: A Story of the Norfolk Broads (1952) and Bluewater Mere (1954). He also illustrated many of the children's novels by Patricia St. John, such as The Tanglewoods’ Secret (1948), Treasures of the Snow (1950), Star of Light (1953) and Rainbow Garden (1960); and others such as Deborah Bennett, Jean’s Black Diamond: A Story of Australia (1951), Son of Diamond: A Story of Australia (1952) and Susan’s Conquest: A Story of Australia (1956); Joyce Reason, Laughter of the Desert (1952); David Britten, The Making of Stephen Hall (1954); Elisabeth Batt, The House With the Blind Window (1955), In Search of Simon (1956) and The Wilde Riders (1960); Christine Savery, Red Knights from Hy Brasil (1955); Leslie S. Ward, Touchdown to Adventure (1958); Will Maggs, Head-Hunters’ Moon (1958); Constance Savery, Flight to Freedom (1958); Margaret Barry, Julie Westaway (1958); Gordon Parke, Coffins for Traitors (1958); Mary Batchelor, All For Good (1958); Richard Armstrong, Sabatoge at the Forge (1960); Maurice Cox, Virginian Rebel (1960); Godfrey C. Robinson and Stephen F. Winward, In the Holy Land: A Journey Along the King’s Highways (1963); O.L. Rice, My Friend Linda (1976); and Elizabeth Mumford, Holiday in the Mountains (n.d.). His love of art and his Christian convictions led him to illustrate and design exhibitions for organizations such as The British and Foreign Bible Society, Strict Baptist Mission and Scripture Union (he illustrated, for example, John C. Pollock, The Good Seed, Story of CSSM & Scripture Union, 1959), and for The Evangelical Magazine. It was during his time at SU that he started writing, later entering Captured into their annual children’s writer competition.

[All For Good by Mary Batchelor, 1958.]

It was in 1959 that Mr. Lupton spoke at the Puritan Conference at Westminster Chapel. Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones after hearing his lecture encouraged him to publish his work. Mr. Lupton would go on to create the original logo for the publisher, Banner of Truth, as well as illustrate many cover sketches for Banner of Truth publications, including the design for the Geneva series of Bible commentaries. His artwork appears on two volumes by J.C. Ryle that were reprinted by Banner of Truth in 1960: Five Christian Leaders and Five English Reformers; as well as the 1960 BoT edition of James Bannerman’s classic, The Church of Christ.

An exhibition designer during and after WWII, Mr. Lupton once met the Queen Mother at the opening of the 1951 Faith of Britain exhibition, which he had designed. Too embarrassed to wear his hearing aid (he was deaf), he unable to hear what she said. In A History of the Geneva Bible, he noted “isolated as I am by deafness and devoted to my art, social relationships cannot be my strong point; yet, as I go about looking for subjects to sketch I am continually swept by waves of rapture for the physical world around me” (3:188-189).

It was after WWII that Mr. Lupton had an experience that was life-changing. He tells the story in the first volume of what would become the great work of his life, A History of the Geneva Bible (1:11-12):

It was on a sketching tour soon after the War that I fell in love with a [Geneva] Bible. It lay invitingly open in a window shop in Chichester. The left-hand page had an old map with galleons and sea monsters on it while the right had a gorgeously decorative title and border. It was early closing day so we drove on to Bosham with our easels and canvasses. But I always regretted missing that Bible and in the end, some three years later, I wrote to see if it was still there. It was, and thereby hangs this tale.

I soon found that there was more to the volume than met the eye, especially for people who feel a sneaking sympathy with those underdogs of our school history books -- the Puritans and Roundheads. I found that this old book was a real Puritan Bible. As I dug out more and more bits of information about it I found myself back in a thrilling world of romance, of little ships slipping their moorings at night, of galloping horses, of the roar of siege cannon, of snowy Alpine passes, of printing presses, of men who feared neither man nor devil, Queen nor Emperor, of a royal Duchess trudging a lonely road in pouring rain at midnight and carrying her husband's sword while he carried her baby, of love among exiles in foreign cities, of births, of deaths and a hundred other things of which I could write if this book were a Geneva quarto or one of Christopher Barker's great folios instead of a mere 20th century demy octavo.

This experience led Mr. Lupton to not only cherish the Geneva Bible and begin a 25-volume study of its history, but also contributed to his appreciation for and contributions towards hand-lettered calligraphy, which he used from volume eight forward, with a quill pen. The individual volumes are a treasure, because each has the feel of a book written especially for the reader.

[The first volume of Mr. Lupton's magnum opus.]

The preface to the fourth volume of A History of the Geneva Bible was written by Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and sheds more light on both the man and his magnum opus (4:7-8): 

For many years I had known of Mr. Lewis Lupton's interest in the Geneva Bible, and having heard his paper on the subject at a "Puritan Conference" some years back, I was delighted when he told me that intended publishing the story of its history in several volumes.

I have already greatly enjoyed the first three volumes and it is now my privilege to write this word of Introduction to the fourth volume.

All who have read the previous volumes will need no encouragement to read this one, but for the sake of those who may not have done so, I would call attention to certain special features of this series of books.

They are of unusual interest and importance at the present time. We have been bombarded by new translations of the Bible during the past twenty years, so it is particularly valuable to have this history of one of the most important and influential translations ever made.

Fortunately for us, however, Mr. Lupton does not confine himself solely to that theme. He rightly includes the entire history of that most fascinating period during which the shape of the different sections of the Christian church in Britain was being determined. At a time when the nature of the church and its form of government is constantly before us because of the various ecumenical activities, it is essential that all branches of the church should be familiar with their origins and factors that determined what happened.

Here we have it all in detail - the troubles at Frankfurt, the prejudices and the divisions, and the mighty influence of John Calvin at Geneva.

At the same time there are cameos of the great men of those days who were gathered together in various places, and who grappled with the great questions which are in our day and generation still burning and vital issues.

I am particularly glad that Mr. Lupton has "spread" himself. Far too often we are given mere summaries, or an expression of the prejudices of the author; but here, the facts are allowed to speak for themselves and we see these men who belonged to the second generation of Protestant leaders as they were, and as they met their daily problems.

At the same time we are led into what, from the purely theological standpoint, are most interesting by-paths, where we learn something about printing, art, etc. 

Personally I always find this type of book not only interesting but truly instructive and stimulating, and the larger the number of facts and details the better.

Mr. Lupton has not only the eye of an artist but also the nose of the true historian, and above all the understanding of one well versed in the Reformed faith. I need say nothing about the sheer delight to the eye of these volumes.

This particular volume is worthy of its predecessors and whets our appetite for what is yet to come.

It was also in the 1960's that Mr. Lupton set up (with others) The Fauconberg Press (named for Lady Mary, daughter of Oliver Cromwell, known as Countess Fauconberg), the publishing arm of the Strict Baptist Historical Society. Books he illustrated for TFP include J.H. Alexander, More Than Notion (1964) (a story of revival); Lewis Lupton, Red Indian Peril: The Story of John Eliot, the Apostle of the Red Indians, Translator of the Bible no-one can read and the First Protestant English Missionary (1965); Lewis Lupton, Captured: Being the Adventures of a Puritan Boy, Sandy Williams, of Deerfield in Massachusetts, New England, in the year 1704. How he was Captured by the Abenaki Indians; his residence in Canada and Acquaintance with Mademoiselle Carignan and other of the French Nobility, with all that he suffered at the hands of the Governor and Priests; together with an Account of the Remarkable Sequel now set forth by Lewis Lupton (1965); and Lewis Lupton, Behind Mr. Bunyan (1968) (a true story of Agnes Beaumont, who belonged to John Bunyan's Meeting). These stories engage not only younger but older readers as well (Captured has "A Preface for Young Older Folk," "Another Preface, For Younger Young Folk," and "An Introduction, For Nobody"). The prominent theme in these works is a desire on the part of the writer/illustrator to bring church history alive and make Puritan Christianity relevant to our day.

[Portrait of Lewis Lupton by Julia Button from Captured, 1965.]

Mr. Lupton shared personal remarks often in his History of the Geneva Bible, and the last volume he published (it was considered “unfinished” at the time of his death in 1996) contains interesting comments he made in the postscript. In the context of describing his appreciation for the influence of Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. D.M. Lloyd-Jones and Rev. Peter Toon, he had this to say about what the “rediscovery” of Puritan theology meant to him personally.

Another plank in our ‘Puritan’ platform was called the ‘Banner books,’ reprints of puritan tomes, splendidly printed, a venture of the greatest value, which still does much good worldwide. These excellent works are puffed on their way by a magazine, of which I count No. 11 as a turning point in my thinking, for it was devoted to the ‘Free Offer.’ Brought up on predestinarian Baptist preaching, and confirmed in the same by studies of, and around, the Geneva Bible, I was familiar with its rediscovery at Geneva, Beza’s chart of ‘double’ predestination, and the perils of ‘hypercalvinism.’ Therefore the ‘Banner’s’ summary of the Biblical doctrine of the ‘well meant’ offers of mercy to all, brought pure joy to my troubled heart, while Boston’s ‘Fourfold State,’ wiped the last vestige of a frown from my Father’s face. (25:111)

In 1968, Mr. Lupton toured the area around Christ Church, Spitalfields, a place known to history for its warm embrace of French Huguenot refugees. He wrote about his experience and provided illustrations of his tour, which are available to see here.

The Olive Tree published a facsimile reprint of Anne Locke’s 1560 English translation of the French Sermons of John Calvin upon the Song that Ezechias made after he had been sick and afflicted by the hand of God, contained in the 39th chapter of Isaiah (modernized English title), along with her poetic meditation on Psalm 51 under the title Mrs. Locke’s Little Book (1973).

[Portrait of Lewis Lupton by Joan Lupton.]

A man who loved the visual as well as the written word, he illustrated the ceiling of his house showing the gospel from Genesis to Revelation (which was featured in the 1989 Observer). It was painted in oils directly on the plaster. He created a similar illustration on the ceiling of another house. Those who have seen the ceilings continue to marvel about them to this day.

He died on July 16, 1996. Almost exactly two years later, Joan passed away on July 2, 1998. His three children (Jude, Esther and Julia) still own the Lupton house, and Jude lives there to this day. Mr. Lupton has been memorialized in several places. The Strict Baptist Historical Society published his obituary, as did Iain Murray in the October 1996 Banner of Truth Magazine [I have just read Mr. Murray's tribute to his friend shortly before publishing this article, and it is a wonderful encomium]. A page in his honor tells the story of his life and highlights his skill as an illustrator in Donald L. Brake and Shelly Beach, A Visual History of the King James Bible: The Dramatic Story of the World's Best-Known Translation (2011), which also includes many varied and beautiful illustrations by Mr. Lupton. Peter Toon, the great Anglican minister and historian, in Puritans and Calvinism (1973) (whose 1967 book Hypercalvinism, was published by Mr. Lupton's The Olive Tree), had this to say in his preface about Mr. Lupton: 

I dedicate this book to two men, both of whom are twice my age.  They have never met but they share a common enthusiasm for all that is best in Puritan divinity.  First, by reason of his greater age, is Norman F. Douty of Pennsylvania, preacher, teacher and theologian.  This year he celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the Christian ministry in the Baptist denomination.  He has given me the privilege of seeing through the press for him his major study entitled The Believer’s Union with Christ to be published by Reiner Publications in April 1973.  Second, Lewis F. Lupton, artist, historian and theologian.  Two of his paintings hang in my house and his portraits of my wife and me are in my study.  He is engaged in publishing a truly magnum opus, a History of the Geneva Bible in at least seven volumes, four of which have appeared already.  Enriched by beautiful illustrations, the books are published by Mr. Lupton’s own publishing house, The Olive Tree of Chiswick, London.

In researching this article, I have corresponded with his daughter Julia, and a number of others who have known Mr. Lupton over the years. Many have offered me testimonies of his character, anecdotes of his life, and access to his works. I am greatly indebted to each of them. I would note also that Mr. Phil Roberts of Tentmaker Publications has rights to the reprinting of A History of the Geneva Bible, and some volumes have already been reprinted.

[The Resurrection Tree by Lewis Lupton.]

In 1965, Mr. Lupton wrote of himself, “For the last decade he has devoted much of his time to the illustration of Christian literature. He now finds the appeal of the three creative activities, writing, painting, and drawing almost equally balanced. Like most people with artistic gifts he is spurred on by the hope of producing some work of lasting merit, but at middle age it still remains to the seen whether he will make any permanent mark.” There are no statues standing in London so far as this writer knows to honor "the Michelangelo of Chiswick." Charles Spurgeon once wrote, however, that “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” We have precious writings and beautiful illustrations to cherish from Mr. Lupton's hand. But his legacy lives on most particularly in the hearts of his loved ones, and those who knew him - and those who wish they had known him. 

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