Mary Tourtel lived in Ivy Lane, Canterbury, towards the end of her life
Tourtel was born as Mary Caldwell and raised in an artistic family, daughter of a stained glass artist and stonemason. She studied art under Thomas Sidney Cooper at the Sidney Cooper School of Art in Canterbury, and became a children's book illustrator. She eventually married an editor of The Daily Express newspaper, Herbert Tourtel.
Rupert Bear was created in the 1920s as the Express was in competition with The Daily Mail and its comic strip Teddy Tail, and Pip, Squeak and Wilfred in The Daily Mirror. Rupert Bear was first published as a nameless character in a strip titled Little Lost Bear on 8 November 1920. Published as two cartoons a day and a short story underneath, the strip featured a brown bear until the Express cut inking expenses and made Rupert's colour white.
Tourtel retired in 1935 after her eyesight deteriorated, and the strip was continued by a Punch illustrator, Alfred Bestall.