Margaret Tempest was born into a well known Ipswich family: her father served as Mayor of Ipswich when she was a girl, her elder brother Roger was Rector of nearby Kersey, and her younger brother Frank, a solicitor, in due course also became Mayor. She early on showed a gift for drawing and attended the art school in Ipswich before going on to Westminster School of Art in 1914. From there she co-founded and was secretary of the Chelsea Illustrators Club, a group of some 17 former students who set up a studio in a barn off the King’s Road. Between 1919 and 1939 they put on annual exhibitions and ran a successful business, selling their work and producing commercial material including Christmas cards. Margaret also did freelance teaching in private homes and in a prep school, West Downs School in Winchester, Hampshire where Peter Scott was one of her pupils.
Apart from the years between the wars, Margaret Tempest spent the whole of her long life in Ipswich. She began illustrating Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit books in 1929 and continued to do so into the 1960s, by which time 34 titles had appeared. But she also illustrated a number of other children’s books and designed picture postcards for the Medici Galleries, as well as writing and illustrating religious books for children and her own series of Pinkie Mouse and Curly Cobbler stories.
Besides her art, her other great passion was sailing, often with Frank, around the Suffolk coast; she was elected Commodore of the Pin Mill Sailing Club.
She married late in life a widowed cousin, Sir Grimwood Mears, a former Chief Justice in Allahabad, India, and they had a happy time together till his death at the age of 93 in 1963. Sadly her final years were clouded by Parkinson’s disease which prevented her from drawing, and she died aged 90 in 1982.
Margaret Tempest was a fine artist, at her best in the unassuming portrayal of animals and the countryside. She had a particular affinity with children: at their frequent visits she would sit each one on her lap, ask which animal they liked best, and proceed to draw it for them.