Nora Fry Lavrin

Nora Lavrin, née Fry (1897 30 August 1985), was an English engraver, book illustrator and painter. She illustrated twenty editions of children's books.

Nora Lavrin
Died30 August 1985 (aged 8788)
Known forEngraver, book illustrator, painter

Early life

Nora Fry was born in Liverpool, the daughter of Canadian-born Ambrose Fry, an urban landlord and chemical manufacturer, and Lydia (Lily) Thompson, who was from the Shetland Isles. Nora's brother, architect Maxwell Fry, in his autobiography mentions their mother playing the piano and that she had painted.[1] She had an older sister Muriel Fry, and two younger brothers, Edwin Maxwell Fry and Sydney Fry.[2]

Nora Lavrin studied arts with her sister Muriel at the Liverpool School of Art. She won a travelling scholarship in 1920 and spent a year in Paris attending the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. She also traveled in the provinces, particularly Semur-en-Auxois where she did drawings and watercolors. Lavrin began her career as an illustrator of children's books in 1926, with designs for Little Grey Men by Betty Timms for Harrap. In 1927 she illustrated two more books, both of which ran to several editions. Her illustration of Aesop’s Fables (1927 and 1934) ran to eight editions between 1927 and 1989. She also illustrated A Treasure of Tales for Little Folks (1927) which ran several versions in the 1930s. In September 1927 she entered the Engraving School of the Royal College of Art, RCA, in Kensington where she specialized in engraving and etching under Robert Austin. Lavrin left the RCA in July 1928 having achieved her Certificate in Etching.[2]

In July 1928 Nora Fry married Janko Lavrin. Her marriage to Lavrin, Professor of Slavonic Studies at Nottingham University College, introduced her to Slovenia and Yugoslavia, a region she memorialized with some of her dry point landscape sketches in Slovenia Summer (1928) and Yugoslav Scenes (1935). The couple had two children, John Lavrin, a painter, and David H. Lavrin, an immunologist. From 1935 to 1937 she joined the University College of Nottingham as an art teacher. In the 1920s and 1930s she exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition; Liverpool Autumn Exhibition, Nottingham Society of Artists and galleries in England and, later in 1961, in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.

World War II

During World War II the Lavrins were living in London. Janko Lavrin worked for the BBC World Service and Nora taught at a number of the art schools, including the Hammersmith School of Art, that had remained open during the conflict. Nora was also spent time outside London recording the work done by the Women's Land Army and several of these pieces were purchased by the War Artists' Advisory Committee and are now held by the Imperial War Museum.[2] Lavrin continued to illustrate books including Averil Demuth's Trudi and Hansel (1938) and Hilda Lewis's The Ship that Flew (1939, 1986). She also illustrated Elizabeth Kyle’s The Seven Sapphires (1944), Holly Hotel (1945), Mirror of Castle Doone (1947) and Lost Karin (1947).

Later life

After the War Lavrin illustrated books on Slovene literature such as Vladimir Levstik, An Adder’s Nest (1931, 1943), Ivan Cankar’s The Bailiff Yerney and his Rights (London 1946), and The Ward of Our Lady of Mercy (Slovenia 1976), and Matej Bor’s A Wanderer in the Atomic Age (1967 and 1970). She also illustrated translations of several English classics into Slovene such as Villete by Charlotte Bronte (Ljubljana 1965), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, and The Return of the Native, Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. Among her publications is a personal memoir of the relationship between D. H. Lawrence, Jessica Chambers, a friend of his youth portrayed in Sons and Lovers, and Frieda Weekley (née von Richthofen), his mistress and wife. It was published posthumously in 1987 as D. H. Lawrence. Nottingham Connections.

In 1952 she published The Hop Dog (1952) in collaboration with Molly Thorp. The story was later adapted into a children’s film, Adventure in the Hopfields (1954).[3] Lavrin's interest in ballet sets and costumes resulted in her designs for Love and Litigation, choreographed by Pino Mlakar for the Slovene National Dance Company in 1956. She left sketches of the Colonel de Basil's Ballet Russe when it toured England in the 1930s.

Lavrin also created many portraits sketches from daily life on paper in the 1950s. Her landscape oil works and watercolor portraits of her children and family are mostly held in private collections. The Ashmolean Museum at Oxford has a collection of her original illustrations. She is also represented in the collection of the Maribor Art Gallery in Slovenia. Her dry points of Yugoslavia published in 1935, in which the landscape is expressed in volumes and the people are captured as in snap shots. The Yugoslavia dry points aimed at witnessing a country and its people and have a very important historical value as they captured a region that would change irreversibly after World War II.


  1. Maxwell Fry (1975). Autobiographical Sketches. Elek (London). ISBN 0-236-40010-X.
  2. Gill Clarke (2008). The Women's Land Army A Portrait. Sansom & Company. ISBN 978-1-904537-87-8.
  3. "Adventure in the Hopfields (1954)". IMDB. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  • Connelly, William, “Nora Lavrin. Bibliography. : From Aesop’s Fables to Castebriski Zupan. The Life and Work of Nora Lavrin (nee Fry) 1897-1985.” IBIS Imaginative Book Illustration Society No. 13 (Winter 1999-2000)15-29.
  • Hammond, Andrew, “Through Savage Europe. The Gothic Strain in British Balkanism”, Third Text, 21:2 (March 2007), 117-127
  • Lavrin, Nora, D.H. Lawrence. Nottingham Connections, Nottingham: Astra Press, 1986.
  • Obituary, The Times, 16 September 1985.
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