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Victor Ambrus

Victor Ambrus at work on a Time Team shoot

Victor Ambrus, FRSA (born László Győző Ambrus, 19 August 1935)[1] is a British illustrator of history, folk tale, and animal story books. He also became known from his appearances on the Channel 4 television archaeology series Time Team, on which he visualised how sites under excavation may have once looked. Ambrus is an Associate of the Royal College of Art and a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers. He was also a patron of the Association of Archaeological Illustrators and Surveyors up until its merger with the Institute for Archaeologists in 2011.


  • Early life and studies 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Career in art 3
  • Awards 4
  • Works 5
    • Writing 5.1
    • Illustration 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life and studies

Recreating the Past (2001) by Victor Ambrus and Mick Aston

László Győző Ambrus was born on 19 August 1935 in Budapest, Hungary. He continued to live in the capital, but spent many childhood holidays in the country, where he learned to draw horses. As he grew older he became an admirer of the illustrators Mihály Zichy, E. H. Shepard, Joyce Lankester Brisley, and the large historical paintings which he saw in public galleries.[2] He received his secondary education at the St Imre Cistercian College, Budapest (1945-1953), before going on to study at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts for three years (1953-56),[1] where he was given a thorough grounding in drawing, anatomy and print-making. His four-year course was interrupted by the unsuccessful 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet-backed government, during which a building that he and his fellow students held came under fire from the Soviets.

In December 1956 he and many other students fled, first to Austria, then to Britain, where he hoped to study in the tradition of illustrators such as E. H. Shepard, John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham. From Blackbushe Airport and Crookham army camp, speaking no English, Victor presented himself at Farnham Art School, and was taken on, not to follow any particular course but to work at his drawing. Ambrus had already concentrated largely on engraving and lithography which, as he says, was an excellent training for line illustration. After two terms his tutor and the Principal of Farnham School, recognising that Victor was ready for a higher level of study, commended him to the Royal College of Art in London. Ambrus won a Gulbenkian scholarship to study printmaking and illustration there for three years (1957-60).

Personal life

At the Royal College Ambrus met his fellow student, Glenys Chapman, whom he married in his final year. His wife also had a career as an illustrator of children's books.

Career in art

Ambrus had had one book published in 1955 before he left Hungary; but in Britain his career as a book illustrator began during his final year at the Royal College, when he was commissioned by the publishers, Blackie, to illustrate A. C. Jenkins's White Horses And Black Bulls. While at college he took some samples of his work to Mabel George of the Oxford University Press. In his last year of the course, he was commissioned to illustrate a book that was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement.

His first real job on leaving college was to work for an advertising agency. As his freelance work increased after two years he went back to Farnham and started teaching at the Art School while doing illustration part-time. He lectured from 1963 to 1985 at fairy tale compilations by Ruth Manning-Sanders, including The Glass Man and the Golden Bird: Hungarian Folk and Fairy Tales and Jonnikin and the Flying Basket: French Folk and Fairy Tales.

He currently works as the artist on the television series about archaeology, Time Team. The director and producer of the series, finding 'The Story of Britain' in Reader’s Digest, had decided that Ambrus could illustrate all the subjects they were likely to present, and invited him to take part in a pilot episode of what became Time Team on Channel 4. He has designed six sets of historical stamps for the Jersey Post Office and one for the Royal Mail. He was one of seven leading British illustrators whose work was shown in the exhibition, 'The World of English Picture Books', which toured Japan in 1998.


  • St. Imre Cistercian College, Budapest 1945-53
  • Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest 1953-56
  • Royal College of Art/Royal Scholar 1957/1957-60; (ARCA, 1960)


  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers (R.E. 1973)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts 1977 (FRSA)
  • Elected Member of The Pastel Society (P.S. 1993)
  • Vice President of The Pastel Society 1995-98 (PPVPS)
  • 2004-2007 Elected the Vice President of the Pastel Society
  • Hon Fellow, Society of Graphic Fine Art 2010-present (Hon SGFA)
  • He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Engravers and the Royal Society of Arts and an Associate of the Royal College of Art, where he earned his degree


  • 1965 Kate Greenaway Medal for British children's book illustration[4]
  • 1975 Kate Greenaway Medal[5][6]

Ambrus twice received the Kate Greenaway Medal from the British Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject: the 1965 Medal for The Three Poor Tailors and the 1975 for Mishka and Horses in Battle. All three books were both written and illustrated by Ambrus and published by Oxford. He was also a commended runner up for three Medals: 1963 for both The Royal Navy by Peter Dawlish and A Time of Trial by Hester Burton; 1964 for work in general; and 1971 for The Sultan's Bath, written by himself.[7]

  • 1993, Daler Rowney Prize
  • 1993, World Wildlife Fund Prize, Society of Wildlife Artists[1]
  • 1996, Royal Academy of Arts, Arts Club Drawing Prize




  • "The Three Poor Tailors" (1965) —written and illustrated by Ambrus, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal for British children's book illustration[4]
  • "Brave Soldier Janosh" (1967)
  • "Hot Water For Boris" (1967)
  • "Little Cockerel" (1968)
  • "Seven Skinny Goats" (1969)
  • "The Sultan's Bath" (Oxford, 1971) —a commended runner up for the Greenaway Medal[7]
  • "Country Wedding" (1975)
  • "Horses In Battle" (Oxford, 1975) —joint winner of the Greenaway Medal[5]
  • "Mishka" (Oxford, 1975) —joint winner of the Greenaway Medal[6]
  • "Under The Double Edge" (1979)
  • "The Valiant Little Tailor" (1980)
  • "Dracula: Everything You Always Wanted To Know, But Were Too Afraid To Ask" (1980)
  • "Dracula's Bedtime Storybook: Tales To Keep You Awake At Night" (1981)
  • "Blackbeard" (1982)
  • "Grandma, Felix And Mustapha Biscuit" (1982)
  • "Dracula's Omnibus" (1983)
  • "Son Of Dracula" (1986)
  • "Drawing Animals" (with Mark Ambrus) (1989)
  • "How To Draw Human Figures" (1989)
  • "Dracula's Late Night Tv Show" (1990)
  • "Never Laugh At Bears: A Transylvanian Folktale" (1992)
  • "Count, Dracula!" (1992)
  • "What Time Is It, Dracula?" (1992)
  • "Read With Dracula" ( 1993)
  • "Spot Dracula" (1993)
  • "Ways Of Drawing Hands" (1994)
  • "Recreating the past" (with Mick Aston) (2001)
  • "Drawing on Archaeology (2006)


Books Illustrated by Glenys and Victor Ambrus

  • "A Christmas Fantasy" by Carolyn Haywood (1972)
  • "A Valentine Fantasy" by Carolyn Haywood (1976)
  • "Santa Claus Forever!" by Carolyn Haywood (1983)
  • "Santa Claus Takes Off " (1990)
  • "Santa Claus Snowed Under" (1995)

Books Illustrated by Victor Ambrus A. Written by Hester Burton, Jane Duncan, Helen Griffiths, Elyne Mitchell, K. M. Peyton, Rosemary Sutcliff

B. Written by other authors

  • "Ferdinand Magellan" by Ronald Welch (1955)
  • "White Horses And Black Bulls" by Alan Charles Jenkins (1960)
  • "Master Of The Elephants" by R Guillot (1961)
  • "The Changeling" by William Mayne (1961)
  • "The Prisoner of Zenda" by Anthony Hope (1961)
  • "Looking for Orlando" by Frances Williams Brown (1961)
  • "Hills And Hollows" by Sheena Porter (1962)
  • "The Heron Ride" by Mary Treadgold (1962)
  • "Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope" by Barry Taylor (1963)
  • "Return To The Heron" by Mary Treadgold (1963)
  • "Jacob's Lader" by Sheena Porter (1963)
  • The Royal Navy by Peter Dawlish (Oxford, 1963) —a commended runner up for the Kate Greenaway Medal[7]
  • "Arripay" by Rosemary Manning (1963)
  • "High And Haunted Island" by Nan Chauncy (1964)
  • "Deerfold" by Sheena Porter (1966)
  • "North Of Nowhere" by Barbara Sleigh (1964)
  • "The British Army" by Edward Fitzgerald (1964)
  • "Watch For The Morning" by J Oliver (1964)
  • "Private Beach" by Richard Parker (1964)
  • "Ride A Northbound Horse" by Richard Edward Wormser" (1964)
  • "The Three Brothers Of Ur" by J G Fyson (1964)
  • "Miscellany One" by Edward Blishen," (Ed) (1964)
  • "Pasang The Sherpa" by Peter Webster (1964)
  • "Pineapple Palace" by Robina Beckles Wilson (1964)
  • "The Red King & The Witch: Gipsy Folk And Fairy Tales" by Ruth Manning-Sanders (1964)
  • "The Hamish Hamilton Book Of Kings" by Eleanor Farjeon & William Mayne (1964)
  • "The Hamish Hamilton Book Of Queens” by Eleanor Farjeon & William Mayne (1965)
  • “The Journey Of The Eldest Son” by J G Fyson (1965)
  • "The Three Sorrowful Tales Of Erin” by F M Pilkington (1965)
  • “The Cat That Walked A Week” by M Dejong (196)
  • “A Turkish Village” by Gough, Mary (1965)
  • “The Dog Crusoe” by R M Ballantyne (1966 )
  • “The Royal Air Force” by John W.R. Taylor ( 1965)
  • “Bilberry Summer” by Maribel Edwin” (1965)
  • “One Is One” by Barbara Leonie Picard (1965)
  • “The Young Pretenders” by Barbara Leonie Picard (1966)
  • “The Merchant Navy” by Peter Dawlish (1966)
  • “The Challenge Of The Green Knight” by Ian Serraillier (1966)
  • “ Little Katia” by E M Almedingen (1966)
  • “The Bushbabies” by William Stevenson (1966)
  • “Young Mark” by E M Almedingen (1967)
  • “Robin In The Greenwood” by Ian Serraillier (1967)
  • “Prisoners In The Snow” by Arthur Catherall (1967)
  • “Mathinna's People” by Nan Chauncy (1967)
  • “A Sapphire For September” by Hesba F Brimstead (1967)
  • “Marthinna's People” by Nan Chauncy (1967)
  • “Kidnapped by Accident” by Arthur Catherall (1968)
  • “Haki The Shetland Pony” by Kathleen Fidler (1968)
  • “Twice Seven Tales” by Barbara Leonie Picard (1968)
  • “Folk Tales From The North” by Winifred Finlay (1968)
  • “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe (1968 Nonesuch Press)
  • “The Glass Man And The Golden Bird” by Ruth Manning-Sanders (1968)
  • “Folk Tales From Moor And Mountain” by Winifred Finlay (1969)
  • “The mystery of Stonehenge” by Franklyn Mansfield Branley (1969) —the work by Ambrus most widely held in WorldCat participating libraries[8]
  • "Red Sea Rescue" by Arthur Catherall (1969)
  • "Knights Of God; Tales And Legends Of The Irish Saints" by Patricia Lynch" (1969)
  • "When Jays Fly To Barbmo" by Margaret Balderson (1969)
  • "Robin And His Merry Men" by Ian Serraillier (1969)
  • "Stranger In The Hills" by Madeleine Polland (1969)
  • "The Courage Of Andy Robson" by Frederick Grice (1969)
  • "The Lighthouse Keeper's Son" by Nan Chauncy (1969)
  • "The Family on the Waterfront" by Natalie Savage Carlson (1969)
  • "Jonnikin And The Flying Basket" by Ruth Manning-Sanders (1969)
  • "The diverting history of John Gilpin" by William Cowper (1969)
  • "Celtic Fairy Tales" by J Jacobs (1970)
  • "Big Ben" by David Harry Walker (1970)
  • "West Of Widdershins" by Barbara Sleigh (1971)
  • "The Traitor Within" by Alexander Cordell (1971)
  • "Folk tales from the West" by Eileen Molony (1971)
  • "How The Moon Began" by J Reeves (1971)
  • "Living in a Castle" by R.J. Unstead (1971)
  • "The Story Of Britain Before The Norman Conquest" by R J Unstead (1971)
  • "The Story Of Britain In The Middle Ages by R J Unstead And Victor G Ambrus" ( 1972)
  • "The story of Britain: in Tudor and Stuart Times" by R J Unstead (1971)
  • "The Story Of Britain From William Of Orange To World War II" by R J Unstead (1971)
  • "Claymore and Kilt: Tales from Scottish history and the Scottish ballads" by Sorche Nic Leodhas (1971)
  • "The Galleon" by Ronald Welch (1971)
  • "Tank Commander" by Ronald Welch (1972)
  • "Marko's Wedding" by Ian Serraillier (1972)
  • "Snow Lion" by James Macdonald Marks (1972)
  • "David In Silence by Veronica Robinson (1967)
  • "Tales Of Ancient Persia" by Barbara Leonie Picard (1972)
  • "The Stories Of The Sea" by Frank Knight (1973)
  • "True Stories Of Exploration" by Frank Knight (1973)
  • "The Hamish Hamilton Book Of Magicians" by Roger Lancelyn Green (1973)
  • "Kodi's Mare" by Bonnie Highsmith (1973)
  • "The Golden Future" by Thorstein Stefansson (1974)
  • "The Spuddy" by Lillian Beckwith (1974)
  • "Cap O'rushes" by Winifred Finlay (1974)
  • "Madatan" by Peter Carter (1974)
  • "The Green And The White" by Diana Moorhead (1974)
  • "The Glass Knife" by John Tully (1974)
  • "True Stories Of Spying" by Frank Knight (1975 Benn)
  • "the Hite Cat" by John Tully (1975)
  • "Shakespeare's Tales" by Bernard Miles (1976)
  • "The Farthest-Away Mountain" by Lynne Reid Banks (1976)
  • "Book Of Magical Horses" by Margaret Mayo (1976)
  • "Voyage to Valhalla" by Robert Swindells (1976)
  • "The Hamish Hamilton Book Of Other Worlds" by Roger Lancelyn Green (1976)
  • "Ensign Carey" by Ronald Welch (1976)
  • "Robin Hood" by Antonia Fraser (1977)
  • "Chasing The Goblins Away" by Tobi Tobias (1977)
  • "The Very Special Baby" by R Swindells (1977)
  • "Hunter Of Harter Fell" by Joseph Chipperfield (1977)
  • "The Anatomy Of Costume" by R Selbie (1977)
  • "The Book of Magical Cats" by Margaret Mayo (1978)
  • "Monkey's Perfect" by Nora Rock (1978)
  • "Master Deor's Apprentice" by M A Wood (1979)
  • "The Folk Dress Of Europe" by James Snowden (1979)
  • "Rope around the Wind" by Nora Rock (1980)
  • " The Childhood of Jesus" by Christopher Rawson (1981)
  • "Miracles Of Jesus" by Christopher Rawson (1981)
  • "Stories Jesus Told" by Christopher Rawson (1981)
  • "The Easter Story" by Christopher Rawson (1981)
  • "The Story of Jesus" (1981) – omnibus of "Miracles Of Jesus", "Stories Jesus Told", " The Childhood of Jesus" and "The Easter Story" (1981)
  • "Tales Of Arthur" by James Riordan (1982)
  • "Hamlyn Book Of Legendary Creatures" by Tom McGowen (1982)
  • "Tales From The Arabian Nights by James Riordan (1982)
  • "Billy Bunter Of Greyfriars by Frank Richards" by Charles Hamilton (1982)
  • "Billy Bunter Comes For Christmas by Frank Richards" by Charles Hamilton (1982)
  • "Billy Bunter Does His Best by Frank Richards" by Charles Hamilton (1982)
  • "Billy Bunter’s Double by Frank Richards" by Charles Hamilton (1982)
  • "Billy Bunter’s Postal Order by Frank Richards" by Charles Hamilton (1983)
  • "The Legend Of The Fourth Wise Man by Ronald H. Lloyd (1984)
  • "The Canterbury Tales" ) by Geoffrey Chaucer, Geraldine Mccaughrean (1984)
  • "Stories Of The Ballet by James Riordan (1984)
  • "Robin Hood: His Life And Legend by Bernard Miles (1984)
  • "The Legend Of The Fourth Wise Man" by R H Lloyd (1984)
  • "How The First Letter Was Written" by Rudyard Kipling (1985)
  • "Dog Stories" by James Herriott (1986)
  • "Peter And The Wolf by James Riordan (1986)
  • "A Christmas Carol: Pop-Up Book" by Charles Dickens (1986)
  • "Christmas by Susannah Bradley (1986)
  • "How The Reindeer Saved Santa by Carolyn Haywood (1986)
  • "An Illustrated Treasury Of Myths And Legends by James Riordan, Brenda Ralph Lewis (1987)
  • "King Dicky Bird And The Bossy Princess" by Dorothy Edwards (1987)
  • "King's Monster by Carolyn Haywood (1987)
  • "Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi" by James Riordan (1988)
  • "The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer" by Geraldine Mccaughrean (1988)
  • "Christmas Nativity" by Susanna Bradley ( 1989)
  • "How The Reindeer Saved Santa" by Carolyn Haywood ( 1989)
  • "Shout, Whisper And Sing" by Beverley Mathias ( 1989)
  • "The Little House: A Jewish Folk Tale" by Erica Gordon (1991)
  • "Favorite Fairy Tales Told In France" by Virginia Haviland ( 1994)
  • "Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes" by Michael Harrison (1995)
  • "The Odyssey by Homer" by Geraldine McCaughrean (1996)
  • "Eric The Red" by Neil Grant (1997)
  • "El Cid" by Geraldine Mccaughrean (1997)
  • "My Life With The Indians: The Story Of Mary Jemison" by Robin Moore (1997)
  • "The Iliad by Homer" by Nick Mccarty (1997)
  • Black Beauty: The Greatest Horse Story Ever Told by Anna Sewell" by Caryn Jenner (School & -1997)
  • "Moby Dick: Or, The White Whale by Herman Melville" by Geraldine Mccaughrean (1997)
  • "Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift" by James Riordan
  • "The Adventures Of Robin Hood" Retold by John Grant (1998)
  • "Shakespeare And Macbeth" by Stewart Ross/Tony Karpinski (1998)
  • "One, Two...Where's The Shoe?" by Richard Rosenstein (1998)
  • "The Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum" by James Riordan (1999)
  • "Gordon The Clever Goat" by Marjorie Newman, Keith Gaines (1999)
  • Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas" by Michael Leitch (2000)
  • "The Story Of Mother Teresa" by Stewart Ross (2001)
  • "Great Expectations by Charles Dickens" by James Riordan (2002)
  • "Olaudah Equiano: From Slavery To Freedom" by Paul Thomas (2007
  • "A Glimpse Of Eden" by Evelyn Ames (2007)

written by Hester Burton
  • "Castors Away !" (1962)
  • A Time Of Trial (Oxford, 1963) — a commended runner up for the Kate Greenaway Medal[7]
  • "A Seaman At The Time Of Trafalgar" (1963)
  • "No Beat Of Drum" (1966)
  • "In Spite Of All Terror" (1968)
  • "Thomas" (1969)
  • "The Henchmens At Home (1970)
  • "The Rebel" (1971)
  • "Riders Of The Storm" (1972)
  • "Kate Rider" (1974)
  • "To Ravensrigg" (1976)
  • "Tim At The Fur Fort" (1977)
  • "A Grenville Goes To Sea" (1977)
  • "When The Beacons Blazed" (1978)
  • "Five August Days" (1981)
written by Helen Griffiths
  • "The Wild Heart" (1963)
  • "The Greyhound" (1964)
  • "The Wild Horse Of Santander" (1966)
  • "Leon" (1967)
  • "Stallion Of The Sands" (1968)
  • "Russian Blue" (1973)
  • "Just A Dog" (1974)
  • "Witch Fear" (aka "Mysterious Appearance Of Agnes") (1975)
  • "Pablo" (aka "Running Wild") (1977)
  • "The Last Summer: Spain 1936 (1979)
written by Jane Duncan
  • Camerons on the Hills (1963)
  • Camerons on the Train (1963)
  • Camerons at the Castle (1964)
  • Camerons Calling (1966)
written by Elyne Mitchell
  • "Silver Brumby Whirlwind" (1973)
  • "The Colt At Taparoo" (1976)
  • "Son Of The Whirlwind" (1977)
  • "The Colt From Snowy River" (1980)
  • "Brumby Racer" (1981)
  • "Light Horse to Damascus" (1987)
written by K. M. Peyton
  • "Windfall" (1962)
  • "Brownsea Silver" (1964)
  • "The Maplin Bird" (1964)
  • "The Plan For Birdsmarsh" (1965)
  • "Thunder In The Sky" (1966)
  • "Flambards" (1967)
  • "The Edge Of The Cloud" (1969)
  • "Flambards In Summer" (1969)
  • "The Right-Hand Man" (1977)
written by Rosemary Sutcliff
  • "The Hound Of Ulster" (1963)
  • "The Chief's Daughter" (1967)
  • "The Circlet Of Oak Leaves" (1968)
  • "The Truce Of The Games" (1971)
  • "Tristan And Iseult" (1971)
  • "The Changeling" (1974)

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Victor Ambrus". IMDb. Retrieved 19 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Martin (1989), pp. 83-86.
  3. ^ "Victor Ambrus PS" (Pastel Society). Gallery LeFort Fine Art; retrieved 10 August 2010.
  4. ^ a b (Greenaway Winner 1965). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners (Living Archive). CILIP; retrieved 16 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b (Greenaway Winner 1975a). Living Archive. CILIP; retrieved 16 July 2012.
  6. ^ a b (Greenaway Winner 1975b). Living Archive. CILIP; retrieved 16 July 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d "Kate Greenaway Medal". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University; retrieved 27 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Ambrus, Victor G.". WorldCat. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  • D. Martin, "Victor Ambrus", in Douglas Martin, The Telling Line: Essays On Fifteen Contemporary Book Illustrators (Julia MacRae Books, 1989), pp. 83–105

Further reading

  • M. R. Hodgkin, "Introducing illustrators: Victor G. Ambrus", The Junior Bookshelf 28:2 (1964 March), pp. 80–85

External links

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