Melton Prior was one of the leading special artists in late Victorian Britain. He worked for the Illustrated London News from the early 1870’s until 1904 covering many events around the world especially wars. Having an ability to quickly sketch the scenes before him, his drawings were sent back to London where they were engraved on wood-blocks for printing in the Saturday issues of the ILN. From his first work covering the war in Ashanti, West Africa, in 1873, he went on to cover conflicts in Egypt, Sudan, Somaliland, South Africa, Crete, Turkey, and Manchuria. Prior also traveled on a number of Royal tours including accompanying the Prince of Wales to Canada in 1901.
The current exhibition in the Bopp Seminar Room located on the top floor of the John Hay Library, commemorates the centenary of his death on 2 November 1910, and includes original drawings from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection drawn for the ILN by Prior during various conflicts. An article on the artist written by the curator has also recently been published in MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History.
Prior was one of two major artists employed by the ILN, the other being William Simpson (1823-1899), and the Military Collection owns a number of original works by this Scottish artist as well as manuscript material. Two letters addressed to Simpson have recently been acquired, both relating to Simpson’s time in France during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71: a letter from the ILN owner and founder, William Ingram; and one from the chief editor, Mason Jackson.