E. Gertrude Thomson, Lewis Carroll’s Other Illustrator

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has had hundreds of illustrators since its initial publication, but for most readers the book will forever be linked to John Tenniel, its first illustrator. Despite the fame that Carroll’s book achieved in his lifetime with the help of Tenniel’s fantastic illustrations, Carroll and Tenniel never maintained anything but a working relationship. That cannot be said of E. Gertrude Thomson, the illustrator for a collection of poems Carroll had published in 1898, the same year he passed away, and most famously the designer and illustrator for the cover of The Nursery “Alice”, a revised edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland aimed at infants and toddlers which was first published in 1890, a fully twenty-five years after the original.

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Nursery Alice (cover)(1898)

Carroll had long been an admirer of Thomson’s illustrations of fairies for Christmas cards (it may seem an odd juxtaposition to have fairies on holiday cards, but let’s not forget the Victorian obsession with the fair folk, which Carroll certainly possessed), and later of one of his favorite books, William Allingham’s The Fairies—A Child’s Song, which can be viewed and read in its entirety at the Archive site.

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Fairies – A Child’s Song (1)(1883)

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Fairies – A Child’s Song (2)(1883)

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Fairies – A Child’s Song (3)(1883)

We have, in fact, an account by Thomson of her first meeting with Carroll, and it’s steeped in charm and authenticity:

A little before twelve I was at the rendezvous, and then the humour of the situation suddenly struck me, that I had not the ghost of an idea what he was like, nor would he have any better chance of discovering me! The room was fairly full of all sorts and conditions, as usual, and I glanced at each masculine figure in turn, only to reject it as a possibility of the one I sought. Just as the big clock had clanged out twelve, I heard the high vivacious voices and laughter of children sounding down the corridor.

At that moment a gentleman entered, two little girls clinging to his hands, and as I caught sight of the tall slim figure, with the clean-shaven, delicate, refined face, I said to myself, “That’s Lewis Carroll.” He stood for a moment, head erect, glancing swiftly over the room, then, bending down, whispered something to one of the children; she, after a moment’s pause, pointed straight at me.

Dropping their hands he came forward, and with that winning smile of his that utterly banished the oppressive sense of the Oxford don, said simply, “I am Mr. Dodgson; I was to meet you, I think?” To which I as frankly smiled, and said, “How did you know me so soon?”

“My little friend found you. I told her I had come to meet a young lady who knew fairies, and she fixed on you at once. But I knew you before she spoke.”

If that wouldn’t win one an immediate lifelong friendship, I don’t know what would. As it so happened, it did precisely that. In fact, Thomson and Carroll became such close friends that Miss Thomson, as Carroll generally referred to her, was one of the few people he invited to witness his photographing of children, even in the nude. Thomson was known to be present during several of these sessions with the Henderson sisters, for example, subjects of one of the few surviving nudes Carroll produced before he gave up photography for good in 1880, likely because of the rumors that had begun circulating about his passion for photographing little girls sans habillement.

From these sessions Thomson made several sketches which almost certainly became drawings for Three Sunsets and Other Poems (available in full at Project Gutenberg). These drawings bear a simplicity of execution and lack of background detail that allows the plump and innocent allure of the figures to shine.

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (cover)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (1)

Carroll originally intended for all of the fairies to be female, owing to his revulsion to the male form. As he said to Thomson after seeing early versions of her drawings for the book:

If you would add to the hair, and slightly refine the wrist and ankles, it would make a beautiful girl. I had much rather have all the fairies girls, if you wouldn’t mind. For I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures. They always seem to me to need clothes: whereas one hardly sees why the lovely forms of girls should ever be covered up!

There is certainly more than a touch of that old Victorian sexism in this confession, something that might have irked Miss Thomson. Given it was Carroll’s project for which Thomson was creating her illustrations, one can see why she would concede to his requests.  Nevertheless, several of them still do retain traces of more boyish fairies, including the image Carroll was commenting on here, the so-called “bower illustration,” the final version of which can be seen below.

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (2)

Most of the fairies, however, are undeniably feminine.

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (3)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (4)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (5)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (6)


Allingham, William, The Fairies – A Child’s Song

Carroll, Lewis, The Nursery “Alice”

Carroll, Lewis, Three Sunsets and Other Poems

Cohen, Morton N., Lewis Carroll: A Biography

Cohen, Morton N. and Edward Wakeling, eds., Lewis Carroll & His Illustrators: Collaborations and Correspondence, 1865-1898

Collingwood, Stuart Dodgson, ed., The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (Rev. C.L. Dodgson)

Maiden Voyages: March 2018

The end of February does seem to sneak up on us.  There is actually very little to report at the moment.  But there is one item from our technical crew.

Yet Another Form of Censorship? We have been through a lot over the years: all kinds of tactics to shut us down. The past few months, I have been getting reports from readers about search engines not producing results from Pigtails. Part of the problem was the switch to the .org domain name and clearing out the old legacy links, but the problem persists.  It took many weeks to get Google to actually index the site, but as yet Bing is still showing the main site map as ‘Pending’ from last year.  Since this is an automated process, it seems this could only be due to censorship which they are denying. “It just takes time”, they say. Since this blog has been around a while, there are now a lot of dead links which is another complaint from the indexers.  I am now working on removing or revising those. There seems also to be some tampering with the indexing system itself.  For example, a blog should only have its individual posts or pages indexed, but both Google and Bing are showing index pages such as ‘tag’ and ‘category’ and then complaining about duplicate content! It does not appear that any other site using the WordPress software is encountering this difficulty. Currently, our technicians are manually putting in ‘no follow’ links on those trouble areas so that only the individual articles appear.

A censored deer and balloon. Or was it the red hair…? A comparison of four Dutch Female Photographers

The last few years, I visited expositions of some Dutch (female) photographers that have in common the theme of the portraiture of girls. For the most part, they are in a kind of quiet, intimate, minimal, unstarched style, in natural light, intended to portray the girl herself. There was no idea of deep meaning beyond the fact of the model—however valid a deeper expression may be. So we are speaking of a simple portraiture of the girls—within the bounds of the photographer’s creativity. There is none of the emphasis on light and darkness, symbolism, mythology, etc. This is quite different from the work of say, Jan Saudek or Irina Ionesco: no touch of heaven or purgatory. Consequently, it does not really matter whether the photos were taken “en plein air” or in a studio.

One of them, Vivian Keulards, has been censored for two bare portraits (or was it the red hair?). This case seems to be a matter of the eye of the beholder. Judge for yourself, along with a few other examples of her work and the work of three others. Originally, I had only wanted to write about Keulards because I read in a newspaper that two of her portraits—including one of her daughter—has been removed from an expo in the Art Gallery in the WTC, The Hague. A similarity with some other photographers came to mind. This was a good occasion to show something that was going on that had nothing to do with whether there was some kind of typically Dutch style of photography. This question might be better discussed in another post.

Photographers like Ata Kandó, who died only last September, whose work—at least her books with her children Dream in the Forest and Kalypso & Nausikaä—might be called fictional, fairy tale-like, mythological—apart from it being a kind of fashion photography with her children. That is to say, there are moments of reality that appear unexpectedly. In that ‘light’, what happened to Keulards is a repetition of ‘darkening’ history. In an interview Kandó tells (translated from Dutch):

There was actually no money for it, but I felt that my children were entitled to go on vacation, and that’s why we went hitchhiking. I like to photograph children, because they are photogenic and sweet. In prudish Paris they didn’t want to publish Dream in the Forest. The girls had no breasts yet, but stood on the picture with bare upper-body and the French media found that it had to do with sex. I was very angry about that, for me that work was totally poetic and innocent, like in a fairy tale.

Here two pictures from Dream in the Forest. I tried my best to find a ‘decent’ and an ‘indecent’ one.

Ata Kandó – Dream in the Forest ‘Madeleine and Thomas Kandó’ (1957)

Ata Kandó – Dream in the Forest ‘Ferns’ (1957)

Here the two images of Keulards, who would not have been censored without bare upper torso, with other work by her, who could have been censored as well, if these had also showed bare torsos.

Vivian Keulards – Dear Noortje (2010-2013)

Vivian Keulards – Marc Anthony (c2013)

Vivian Keulards – Taryn & Olivia (2013)

Vivian Keulards – Eimear (2014) [Bookcover of Flaming Grace, 2017]

Vivian Keulards – Eline (2013)

Vivian Keulards says about her series and book:

For years now I’ve been fascinated by red-headed children. In 2007, I made the first portraits in the series ‘Flaming Grace’. Until today I’ve photographed many red-headed children, not only in The Netherlands, but also in the US and Ireland. Why? Simply because I think they’re breathtakingly beautiful! I find these children mystical and magical and they push my creativity to the max. They’re visual poetry to me! Along the way I learned a lot about the red hair MCR1-gene and heard many stories and myths. Some people say redheads will likely be extinct in the next 100 years. This is because the gene is not dominant enough to survive. I don’t know if it’s true, but if so, I might even have written history.

The other artists did not focus on red-headed children, but I found a few examples and added them at the end—excepting Kandó whose work is mainly in black and white.

Rineke Dijkstra – Kolobrzeg, Poland (1992) / Sandro Botticeli – The Birth of Venus (c1483)

Rineke Dijkstra – Marianna (The Fairy Doll) (2014)

This is a film still from a video installation I saw in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, in a ‘black box’ rather than a ‘white cube’.

Rineke Dijkstra – Marianna And Sasha Kingisepp, Russia (2014)

Rineke Dijkstra – Coney Island, NY USA (1993)

Pip Starr commented on this last image by Dijkstra:

This is a strange image. The little girl is topless, which is odd considering the time and place the photo was taken: Coney Island, New York in the early ’90s. Unlike in Europe or other parts of the world, little girls going topless at an American beach is highly unusual, to say the least. Moreover, bucking the usual trend for these kinds of photos, this girl does not appear to be very happy. She’s frowning, and her arms are crossed defensively. Award-winning photographer Rineke Dijkstra is Dutch, but perhaps her subject here was not, and while Dijkstra clearly saw nothing out of the ordinary in having this girl pose topless, the girl herself seems less than thrilled at the prospect. Then again, the little redhead could be upset about something entirely unrelated. Who knows? This subject is now an adult, and I’d be curious to learn what was actually going on in her head at the time this was taken

Most of Rineke Dijkstra’s portraits are poses like this. Seriously, whether topless or not (with or without red hair), Dijkstra created a whole series of child and adolescent portraits, in bathing suits at the beach. Some seem to be topless and would have been more usual on a Dutch beach. About her models she said:

With young people everything is much more on the surface—all the emotions. When you get older you know how to hide things.

Hellen van Meene – Untitled (2012 – 2014)

Hellen van Meene – Untitled (2014)

Hellen van Meene – Untitled (1997)

Hellen van Meene has worked with many models, but I choose to present here two of the same model, with dogs and one earlier work with a red-haired girl. Maybe she is the least unstarched, compared with Keulards, Dijkstra and Bouma—though also with natural light. In comparison, van Meene is more dreamy, like Kandó, but more awake. Maybe even a kind of sweet, dry humour, with her series on ‘Dogs and Girls’ in mind. There was some biographical basis for this: as a child, she had been bitten by a dog. The decision to embark on this series featuring dogs came as a surprise even to her.

Here is some more about her work and one of her books, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits. Here van Meene mentions that she does not find it important to identify her models, therefore her work is mostly untitled. Her careful staged images seem to want to capture moments in time, but with a sense of timelessness. Indeed, these girls (and dogs) are without a clear sense of time or place. The girls, though, can be different on another day, especially when they are in-between and growing up. I experience these portraits as portraits of the girls themselves—modelled, yes, but after themselves.

Aline Bouma – (Title unknown) (c2016)

Aline Bouma – Eva (c 2016)

Aline Bouma – Marjolein (c2016)

Dimitri – Exposition Aline Bouma in the City Theatre Utrecht (2017)

Aline Bouma, 25, had an exposition titled Twelve in the Utrecht City Theatre. It was her exam project as a documentary photographer.

Here is a comment about it that, unfortunately, can no longer be found online:

12 / 24 – What goes on in the world of twelve-year-old girls? Are they already having their first crush? Or are they climbing to the top of the tallest trees? When Aline Bouma reached this fascinating age, her mother passed away, causing all these fleeting memories of being twelve to become a giant blur. Her father had stopped taking photographs, and so there is no visual account of this period of her life. The only things that remain of these memories are small diary fragments that she kept as a girl. What she must have looked like back then is a mystery, with just her imagination and memories that have been warped throughout the years as all she has left to go on. With this project, Aline brings you into the, for her, unknown world of twelve-year-old girls. By photographing them, she creates an indirect self-portrait in which she tries to rediscover the year that had been lost to her.

Why have the two portraits of Vivian Keulards been taken away? Was it because the boy holding a balloon in front of his head was topless with a bare torso—or perhaps it was the red hair? The hair of the girl, holding deer antlers on her head, also topless, was red as well—or rather dark blonde. Someone or ones unknown working at this WTC took offense of it. Whoever it was, I assume what plays a role is, that this is a gallery within the context of this WTC. In the Netherlands there are a few such WTCs, roughly modelled after those in New York.

Now that these actions have taken place, one’s gaze can now be thought of as “spoiled” when it would not otherwise have been. Why should one’s gaze be tainted by looking at a serious but playful picture of this girl holding her deer antlers—bare and topless notwithstanding? Come on! Maybe one thought it would be a distraction. Can we no longer allow these portraits to speak for themselves or are business interests so paramount that these companies dare not risk losing commercial clients? Now it is impossible to say what my first impression would have been, now that these have been taken away from the display. On the other hand, without it, I might not have heard about it and seen it at all. My best guess is that my first impression would have been that it is merely a girl with deer antlers and would have pondered the mysterious mixture of her playful yet serious gaze. Is there something about her pose or her physical appearance that is supposed to be erotic? In truth, I do not even find it really sensual; and even if it were, what of it? An artist contributes to her cultural paradigm and should not be taken away assuming it has not been produced by abusive means.

None of this was ever the photographer’s intention. Keulards shares her own account of what happened (translated into English):

Last weekend, I got a phone call from WTC The Hague Art Gallery that they took two of my portraits off the wall. Since October 19th, two photo series hang on the walls of the gallery: “Flaming Grace” (portraits of red-haired children) and “Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe” (documentary portraits of my time in the US). Business people walk by my work daily as the gallery is located within a commercial environment. An international company, renting an office within the WTC, complained that they think two images in my exhibition are offensive. It concerns portraits of two children with bare upper bodies: a red-haired little boy and the other one is my own daughter. The gallery has decided, after consultation with the WTC Executive Board, to take these images off the wall. They said they had no choice, they needed to respect the decisions of WTC.

The entire weekend I was upset because of this action. Of course, photography and art are a matter of taste, you’ll find something beautiful, or not. But to qualify my work as offensive? That’s a comment I heard for the first time. I became emotional after hearing about this, but it took very little time to discover where this feeling came from. These portraits, that I made from the heart, where I tried to show beauty and innocence, have become infected. That makes me sad. Who on earth looks at these portraits this way? At my own child? What goes around in these viewers’ heads? That’s what gives me the chills!

That what these viewers see, and what I have intended to capture, are miles apart from each other. Through my eyes there’s nothing, absolutely nothing sexual or offensive in these portraits. The fact that someone sees something totally different says a lot about this person. To let this issue pass me by silently felt very wrong. I have to stand up for myself and my work. In fact, I also need to stand up for our community of professional photographers. Creative freedom suffers when we do not speak up. Where do you draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not? A difficult discussion in these times, but I do know that I find the vision of this company heavily exaggerated, hypocritically prudish and narrow-minded. When I made this portrait of my daughter in 2010, she was six years old. She was like a fish in water in the nature of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Together with a friend they were pretending to be deer, holding the antlers to their heads. As a mother, I found this touching to watch. I saw my fragile girl happy and confident again in this outdoor setting, and this after a difficult time as a preschooler in the Netherlands. That’s what I put in this portrait and nothing else! My images often leave room for interpretation. In fact, it cannot be otherwise, because everyone looks at images with their own filter, their own luggage filled with experiences, education, upbringing, standards and values. However, I find it insulting that my images are found offensive. I simply don’t understand. This just happened in the Netherlands, where we still had a high standard of openmindedness and tolerance. Which is exactly why I want to share this story. If we do not raise our voices on these kinds of issues, against this censorship, even coming from a commercial, business world, we create a ridiculous taboo. This is not what we want.

Maybe the artist should have taken away the rest of her art from this gallery; the artist deliberately left her pictures there with two empty places till the end of the expo. I went there to find the two empty spaces on the wall where the photos once hung. At least I found most probably one.

Dimitri – Empty place in the spotlight (2017)

These pictures come from two series. ‘80349, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe’, about her time starting in 2010 in America. The second is ‘Flaming Grace’, portraits of red-haired children, compiled in a book of the same title. The series was originally titled ‘Elusive Beauty’.

Keulards writes that her portraits are staged. Probably that is what I see in them: serious, deep gazes. Sure, they are posed, but not merely so. It is as if the photographer was waiting until she could see a kind of drama—an elusive grace. Although the artist’s daughter does not actually have red hair, two souls with ‘flaming grace’ were taken away from this expo, and therewith its soul; for who might have walked by wondering about the white, empty parts of the wall that could not handle the weight of such portraits. Rather silly for a wall, don’t you think?

The Hyper-Realistic Art of Kevin Peterson

Kevin Peterson was born in 1979 in Elko, Nevada. The artist’s family moved around a lot during his childhood before finally settling down in Sherman, Texas, where he studied art and psychology at Austin College. He received degrees in Fine Art and Psychology in 2001 and after graduating pursued a career in social work. However, drugs and alcohol soon became part of his life, which lead to his arrest and the loss of his job. It was during his time in a drug and alcohol treatment facility that the painter rediscovered his interest in creating art and decided that it would be his new career.

Kevin Peterson – Bricks (2014)

Most of the paintings that Kevin creates feature a child set within a broken urban landscape, which is in various states of decay. While a smaller number of images focus solely on the animals or other features located within these cities. His early works were more portrait like, with the focus being almost entirely on the child. The background and surrounding landscapes, in these early paintings, lacked detail and in many artworks the subject was standing in front of a wall.

Kevin Peterson – Old Wall IV (2009)

Kevin Peterson – (Title Unknown) (2009)

As his work progressed over the years the backgrounds started to become more detailed, the animals appeared and the child became less of the focus. Additionally, all his years of experience show through as the images go from merely looking realistic to looking hyper-realistic. You also notice that a narrative occasionally appears within the newer paintings, for example, in the Funeral you can see a child holding a funeral for a dead bird.

Kevin Peterson – Funeral (2016)

The pairing of an innocent, yet strong, child with a dark and broken landscape is a deliberate choice for the artist. The artist describes this on his website…

My work is about the varied journeys we take through life. It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken. These paintings are about trauma, fear and loneliness and the strength that it takes to survive and thrive. They each contain the contrast of the untainted, young and innocent against a backdrop of a worn, ragged, and defiled world. Support versus restraint, bondage versus freedom, and tension versus slack are all themes that I often visit. My work deals with isolation, loneliness and longing teamed with a level of optimistic hope. Issues of race and the division of wealth have arisen in my recent work. This work deals with the idea of rigid boundaries, the hopeful breakdown of such restrictions, as well as questions about the forces that orchestrate our behaviour.


Kevin Peterson – Lion, Lion (2015)

When Kevin creates his paintings he uses photographs as a reference and has a large stockpile of images, mainly featuring urban landscapes. The artist also has a collection of images for the humans that appear in the artworks, most of which have been photographed in his own studio. He then uses Photoshop to piece these individual images together to get the look of the final artwork and then it is just a matter of painting it on the canvas. A process that takes many hours and layers of painting with many works taking about 100 hours over several weeks.

Kevin Peterson – Holy Fuckin’ Puke War (2015)

When I first looked at Kevin’s early images I soon got the feeling of familiarity, especially with this painting.

Kevin Peterson – Old Wall II (2009)

I soon found the original photograph that was used as the model for the artist’s image.

Anna Palma – Vogue Bambini Cover (2008)

So it appears as though the artist was using magazine images to model his early paintings on, probably because he had no money to pay for models and no friends with children who could voluntarily model for him. It is also possible that he really liked the photos and simply wanted to show his appreciation to the original photographers by making his own interpretations of their images. I think he has made some good decisions when choosing what images he uses. Anyone recognise this?

Kevin Peterson – Timmy and Kathy (2009)

The original image happens to come from one of my favourite movies.

Le Renard et L’Enfant Movie Poster (2007)

I have not contacted the artist so it is not known if he has received permission, to use these images, from the original creators. If he hasn’t there may be some copyright implications depending on which law you attribute to them. There are many possible laws that can be used here, most likely U.S. copyright law would be applied or, less likely, the Berne Convention, which deals with copyright on an international basis. As the photographs appear to be created in Europe the copyright laws of the individual countries, in which the original photographs were created, may also be used. Using previous cases as an example we can see that the U.S. laws are completely inadequate at preventing unauthorised use of images and instead favour freedom of expression. An artist can make the tiniest change to an image, in Kevin’s case it is changing the background, and this would have enough of a transformative effect to prevent any lawsuit. Richard Prince is a perfect example of this law. He has made a career out of using other people’s images, making tiny additions to them, which transforms them into his own artworks. One of his most recent exhibitions, including the anger it created, is detailed in this article. However, a successful prosecution, for unauthorised use of an image, can be seen when the estate of Jean-François Bauret successfully sued Jeff Koons. French Copyright Laws were used in this case and it should also be noted that this situation was first mentioned on the Pigtails in Paint website. As I am not an artist I am unaware how common this occurrence can be, though this article implies it is frequent as it describes how Bill Gekas has been copied … again.

Kevin Peterson – Choose Light (2008)

La Stupenderia Advertisement (2008)

Kevin currently works out of Winter Street Studios, in Houston, Texas, and sells his works through Thinkspace Galleries.

Ode to a Special 7-Year-Old

Today, Pigtails in Paint is 7 years old.  And thanks to a multitude of guardian angels, it has managed to survive this long bringing attention to a most valuable part of our society, a part that is all too often taken for granted.  Seven is not generally regarded as an important milestone in an enterprise, but given our subject matter, it is an age when a girl is arguably at the height of her charm: she still has the youthful animal spirits that conveys an intoxicating zest for life and yet, has developed sufficient language and intellectual capacity to be an engaging companion.  Below are a few original and historical pieces commemorating this very special anniversary.  -Ron

The first is an original work in the form of an acrostic by Pip Starr who also composed the image for this occasion.

Heaven above opened one wintry night
And birthed an infant on a beam of light,
Presented us with girlish genius,
Placed in our hands the key that would spare us
Years hence from mediocrity and shame,
Bestowing on the world a righteous flame
Invested with the power of her kind–
Revealed to all, she could not be confined!
Today we celebrate her seventh year,
How, counter to the odds, she still is here
Displaying for the world her many charms
And talents: welcome her with open arms!
Yet even now she giggles as she stands,
Pigtails and all, before her doting fans.
It cannot be denied this child has strength,
Given enemies go to great length
To silence her, to make her go away,
And still she’s here to taunt them to this day.
If any man should doubt her bravery;
Lest any view her as unsavory,
She has the answer to all disbelief
In moments such as these, so scrap your grief.
Now picture, if you will, this simple scene:
Present before us is a stage serene.
A spotlight shines down, and she enters there
Into the light, our angel sweet and fair;
Not seconds in, with impish grin, does she
Take off her dress and cry aloud, “I’m free!”

And how about a couple of songs about girls of the celebrated age to mark the occasion? First, Seven Years by Norah Jones. Then, Childhood Dreams by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

As many readers may already know, Graham Ovenden was pleased with Pigtails’ coverage of his recent trial.  He learned of our impending anniversary and generously contributed this original poem, fresh off the presses.

Graham Ovenden – Lily age Seven Years (2010)


I look on you and marvel at your gift
so grateful given through our love.

You grow, the image of our dearest care,
a child both gentle as an angel fair
but equal, strong, determined as the fancy take
to fight all foes invention make.

Like flowers dancing in the air
or tree tip tops; their rhythms share
your gift of childhood’s grace …
Then turn the wild winds to a solemn pace.
Yes, follow on in Pan’s domain
cloaked by a cloth of leafy train.

A child of nature you have grown—
as yet no Earthly strife or passions shown
that turns your mind to Mammon’s lies …
Cloud Castles where the skylark flies
is your domain.

(Let ranting prophets keep their shame).
For innocence is held by you;
a sacred trust, both loving, true.

—Graham Ovenden

The accompanying image is from an original painting in oil on paper.

The next contribution is from Christian, whom you can thank for even having this commemorative post at all.

Mac Harshberger – illustration for “The Birthday” in The Singing Crow (1926)

To Julie Bridwell

JULIE had a birthday,
Mother made acclaim;
Seven soulful candles
Waved their flags of flame.

Ferryboats were tooting,
Trying to be sweet;
Sets of verses scooted
Down from Henry Street.

Ev’ry place was happy—
Even New York Bay;
Sea Gulls flew in sevens,
Honoring the day.

—Nathalia Crane

This poem was printed in The Singing Crow and Other Poems published by Albert & Charles Boni, New York (1926) and illustrated by Mac Harshberger.

Graham Ovenden being an avid purveyor of literature also had a couple of suggestions for poems that fit the sevens theme.



At Two, she is a tiny lass,

And Joy she scarcer knows from sorrow;

She scarce consults her looking-glass;

She has no thought of sad to-morrow!


At Four she is a merry maid,

And looks on aught but play as folly;

She can’t believe bright flowers fade—

That only sawdust is her dolly.


At Eight, her troubles come in scores,

For oft she is perverse and haughty;

A pouting puss in pinafores—

Who’s sometimes whipped when she is naughty!


At Twelve, she is a saucy teaze,

Who knows full well her glances rankle;

Her petticoats scarce veil her knees,

And fairy frills scarce kiss her ankle.


At Fifteen, she’s the pearl of pets,

And feels assured her pow’r is strengthened;

Her snowy school-girl trouserettes

Are hidden when her skirt is lengthened.


At Sixteen, she’s the sweetest sweet,

And dresses in the height of fashion;

She feels her heart ’neath bodice beat,

In earnest for the tender passion.


At Eighteen, p’r’aps she may be sold

Her lot to share, for worse or better;

She’ll either sell her heart for gold—

Or give it for a golden fetter!

—Joseph Ashby-Sterry

This poem was published in a collection called Boudoir Ballads (1876).  Although many poets have written about young girls, Ashby-Sterry distinguished himself by dealing almost exclusively with them.

Arthur Boyd Houghton – Poems by Jean Ingelow Illustrated (1867)



THERE ‘S no dew left on the daisies and clover,

There’s no rain left in heaven;

I’ve said my ‘seven times’ over and over,

Seven times one are seven.

I am old, so old, I can write a letter;

My birthday lessons are done;

The lambs play always, they know no better;

They are only one times one.

O moon! in the night I have seen you sailing

And shining so round and low;

You were bright! ah, bright! but your light is failing—

You are nothing now but a bow.

You moon, have you done something wrong in heaven

That God has hidden your face?

I hope if you have you will soon be forgiven,

And shine again in your place.

O velvet bee, you’re a dusty fellow,

You’ve powdered your legs with gold!

O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,

Give me your money to hold!

O columbine, open your folded wrapper,

Where two twin turtle-doves dwell!

O cuckoopint, toll me the purple clapper

That hangs in your clear green bell!

And show me your nest with the young ones in it;

I will not steal them away;

I am old! you may trust me, linnet, linnet—

I am seven times one to-day.

—Jean Ingelow

This poem is the first Canto in a much longer poem appearing in Poems by Jean Ingelow Illustrated published by Longmans, Green, Reader & Dyer (1867) and illustrated by Arthur Boyd Houghton.

Nymph or Nymphet: John William Waterhouse and the Ever-Shifting Definition of Pedophilia

There is no shortage of controversy these days over artworks featuring nude and/or eroticized children. Quite often these turn out to be massively overblown, and more often than not the “erotic” aspects of said art are purely in the eye of the critical beholder. But at least in most of those cases the art does feature an actual child. Recently a painting by Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse, called Hylas and the Nymphs, was removed from display at the Manchester Art Gallery in a blatant attempt to create controversy where none previously existed.  This was supposedly done in order to “encourage debate” about the way the female body is represented in relation to the male gaze or something.  It’s not hard to see where this is going, right?

John William Waterhouse – Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)

This publicity stunt was in fact prompted by an actual controversy over Balthus’s painting Thérèse Dreaming (which does feature an underage girl in a somewhat provocative pose) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Mia Merrill was the person who formally objected to the work, arguing that the Met was, “romanticising voyeurism and the objectification of children.”  On those grounds she presented the museum with a petition containing over 8,000 signatures in order to pressure the Met into removing the work.  To its credit, the museum refused to bow to such political concerns, and the work was left alone.

Balthus – Thérèse Dreaming (1938)

Nevertheless, this convinced Clare Gannaway, curator of the Manchester Art Gallery, to remove the Waterhouse painting temporarily.  Her reasoning was thus:

It’s not about saying these things can’t exist in a public gallery – it’s about saying, maybe we just need to challenge the way these paintings have been read and enable them to speak in a different way.

In other words, her plan was to generate some sort of larger cultural reaction to art on the whole, a #MeToo-like movement where we collectively reassess the youthful female form in art and shed light on how we have long taken for granted the male exploitation of the female form.  Now, I have no problem with challenging the paradigmatic conception of femininity in art, but the proper way to do that is not to play moral panic games with the public by introducing a pseudo-controversy into the dialogue.

People were asked to comment on this state of affairs, garnering predictably mixed results, with one or more of the commenters noting some supposed pedophilic aspect to Waterhouse’s portrayal of the nymphs.  Says Chris Taylor:

Not one of your correspondents seems to want to directly address Hylas and the Nymphs’s subtle, but surely unmistakable, paedophilic content. I can understand why the male spectator finds a peculiar difficulty in broaching this – there are always problematic moral considerations of the direct imputation of taboo motives for that male gaze (however expressed). But what of the female spectator’s gaze? Having lectured on British and French 19th-century art for many years, I have always been struck by the extraordinary art critical silence in discussing the ways in which paedophilic desire is often embodied in that century’s depiction of the female nude. Or have I simply misunderstood – is it the case that paedophilic desire did not exist before the 20th century?

It’s interesting that Taylor points out the painting’s unmistakable pedophilic content, since to my knowledge no one had, until this point, recognized it in any explicit way, or else every single viewer who saw it just ignored that part of it.  Or, could it be that it simply isn’t there?  As per usual, the modern feminist critic’s definition of pedophilia is very different from the clinical definition, which limits it to desire for prepubescent children only.  Whereas Waterhouse’s nymphs are, at the very youngest, 15 or 16 (with 16 being the legal age of consent in the painter’s native England then, as now).  While these nymphs are certainly young, as nymphs are traditionally meant to be, no one could accuse them of being prepubescent.

Nor is the context particularly exploitative or suggestive of pedophilia.  Far from being some sly old lech attempting to seduce a naive young girl, Hylas is himself clearly a youth, beardless and, from all appearances, rather reluctant to be pulled into the nymphs’ watery domain.  If anything, it is the females who appear to have the sexual upper hand here.  They outnumber the boy seven to one, and they are obviously the seducers, not the seducees.

But perhaps the biggest problem with Gannaway’s attempted attachment of the male admiration of the young female body in art to the #MeToo phenomenon is that it in fact minimizes the horror of actual sexual assault by muddying the waters with something much more innocuous, the flip side of which is a dangerous conflation of fantasy and reality in this era of “alternative fact.”  This was a badly conceived thought experiment that should have been nixed at the brainstorming stage.  If we’re lucky, this will be a minor blip soon forgotten.  Unfortunately, it may have as yet unseen repercussions which could conceivably do real damage to the art world before cooler minds prevail.

Maiden Voyages: February 2018

Expanding the Pipeline: There have been so many good leads coming in here and not enough time to produce them all. The efforts of readers to keep us up to date is much appreciated but there is also much duplication of effort.  The idea of ‘The Pipeline’ was to have a master index of what leads we have, what materials we have and what we still need.  In examining the current database and hardcopy sources, it is clear that ‘Films’ and ‘Artists’ subcategories will be huge and so will have dedicated pages.  Although there is not much to see at the moment, readers who keep up on this site will notice a major expansion of these pages in the next few months, beginning with ‘Films’.

The Cost of Bullying: Amy “Dolly” Everett, famous for being the face of Akubra hats at age 8 in Australia has committed suicide at age 14, after being harassed online. Everett’s father would not disclose the exact nature of the bullying or who was responsible, but urged the culprits to have the courage to attend her memorial service and witness first-hand the devastation they have caused. You can see more coverage of this story here and here and the full Akubra ad can be found here. Understandably, this has prompted debate about the dangers of social media and what measures are effective in stopping bullying.

An Iconic Ad?  A reader came forward with an interesting image advertising floor coverings in Mexico. The ad supposedly appeared in the middle of the 1980s, but he only got a blurry shot of it so readers are requested to come forward with a better copy.  Our copy of the image can currently be found at the top of the ‘Little Orphan Images’ page.

What a Drag: Recently, a 9-year-old drag queen who goes by the name Lactacia became the cover model for a gay clothing store called House of Mann. Predictably, conservatives went nuts (here and here). Pink News, a website covering LGBT issues, has this to say about it.

Standing Against Corporal Punishment: Children make themselves visible in a public demonstration while Wales votes on whether to ban corporal punishment, joining over 50 other countries.

Meet Ava Ryan: Ryan is a 7-year-old comedienne who has produced a number of cute and hilarious videos. Take a look here, here and here.

Why Little Girls?  I have been asked in a number of private communications why we focus only on girls. Isn’t there a segment of the population who finds boys fascinating? Or perhaps some find both genders equally interesting and are perplexed by our biased coverage. Well, I suspect my initial answer may seem like a cop out and it is this: because I am made the way I am and little girls are made the way they are! That is perhaps an overly simplistic way of saying that each of us has different perceptions, sensitivities and temperaments and so we react to stimuli differently and there is no talking us out of it by rational argument. It is interesting to note that this site very nearly did cover boy children. Pip founded this site in 2011 and thought he might cover both genders but, in examining his collected material, realized that much more of it featured girls and so placed his focus on them. And although we specialize in girls, whenever we cover an artist that does not have the same focus, we try to make it clear to our readers. Their coverage of girls or even children generally may have only been incidental and yet if it is interesting enough, it might be offered in a ‘Random Image’ post. As a result, I do not wish any boys (or their parents) to develop neuroses from our neglect. Indeed, these inquiries point to a need for someone with the drive and discipline to create a site that challenges and treats its subjects with dignity and good humor as we have. Should such a site come to pass, we would be delighted to inform our readers so they can experience that side of things. Girls and boys, even at very young ages, are not the same and those of us who observe and enjoy them tend to read different meanings into behavior and attitude just because of their “girlness” or “boyness”. These differences should be celebrated and not condemned simply because they fail to meet someone’s egalitarian standards. Managing this site is an ongoing personal exploration and I hope it is one that, in the sharing, can be appreciated by others as well. I will not claim to know all the answers and that is exactly why I remain involved with Pigtails in Paint. -Ron

The Soul Within: Christina Bothwell

Christian recently brought this artist to my attention. At first blush, many of the sculptures seem to show an idyllic and intimate scene of innocent little girls.

Christina Bothwell and Robert Bender – Secret Life of Girls (2014-15)

Christina Bothwell – Little Friends (2016)

Yet there is something eerie about these pieces as well. A survey of her other work reveals why. Most peculiar are a series of sculptures of a girl in the presence of her disembodied soul.

Christina Bothwell – When the body sleeps (2003-06)

Christina Bothwell – When You’re Sleeping (2007-09)

Since I was very young, I have been fascinated with the concept of the Soul… the idea that the physical body represents only a small part of our beingness. I am always interested in trying to express the that we are more than just our bodies …

Christina Bothwell was born in New York City, spending her youth in towns and cities until finally realizing that she needed to be immersed in nature. She now lives in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and three young children. She says glass gives her the same versatility of other sculptural media with the added feel of an “inner space” augmented by the special way it transmits light. She is currently exploring the idea of metamorphosis by incorporating one figure inside another as though the figure were “pregnant” with its own life affirming potential.

Christina Bothwell – Bow (2012-13)

Christina Bothwell – Bees (2014-15)

Bothwell considers nature the main source of her inspiration and finds it a constant reminder of the interconnectedness of life. This attitude is apparent in many of her pieces and the juxtaposition of human an animal elements give her work a mythic dimension.

Christina Bothwell and Robert Bender – Dream Within A Dream (2016)

Christina Bothwell – Sweet Candour (2014-15)

Christina Bothwell – Mermaid (2007-09)

Acrostics: A Double Collaboration

For a Renaissance Man, an acrostic is an irresistible pastime. It combines the qualities of a puzzle with poetry and so draws on one’s intellectual and creative faculties.

To me and, I expect, many other readers it must have appeared that Graham Ovenden disappeared from the face of the Earth after publishing his last well-known books in the 1990s. I was intrigued by a title I had not seen before owned by a serious collector who was liquidating his collection. It was Acrostics: Pictured in rhyme & colour (2003) published by Artists’ Choice Editions in Oxford. Over the years, I had met only a handful of people who knew of this work and its contents. I later learned that was because the commercial edition consisted of only 240 signed copies augmented with 24 specials and 5 “Exemplaries”.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (1a)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (1b)

Except for ‘Anouchka’ in the Artists’ Choice Edition version, images were printed in diptych form.  I am showing most of them as individual panels to make them more legible and to show off the detail of Partridge’s work.

In the course of researching this mysterious volume and background information on the artist for his original post, I learned that Ovenden is fond of collaborating with and encouraging other artists. Accompanying the images and poetry is the excellent decorative artwork of Brian Partridge. Partridge is an astounding artist and will be featured in a dedicated post to be published soon. He met Ovenden for the first time in 1982 while visiting him at Barley Splatt for a long weekend in the company of Keith Spencer, who published a magazine called The Green Book where his drawings first appeared in print.

The first acrostics to be published were in Ovenden’s monograph published by Academy Editions in 1987 featuring Daisy and Tilly. These particular examples were destroyed in a motorcycle accident near London while being carried by a courier.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – ‘Daisy’ from Graham Ovenden (monograph, 1987)

The next publication to include an acrostic from the proposed book was in ‘The Ruralists’ issue of Art & Design magazine (profile no. 23, Volume 6, 9/10 1990). This was a colored pencil portrait by Ovenden.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Art & Design, Volume 6, (9/10 1990)

No other acrostics appeared in print until the finished Artists’ Choice Editions version in 2003. The book contains only 12 designs and accompanying text but was intended to have a half dozen more. Due to some mixup, those did not end up getting printed. The missing images did appear in the specials and exemplaries as those were hand-printed and assembled. ‘Amy’, ‘Eve’ and ‘Anna’ shown below were among the omitted items.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (2a)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (2b)

Renowned novelist Joanne Harris wrote the introduction for this book and others for Ovenden and, conversely, he illustrated one of her novels as well. Along with a brief history of this art form, she recounts a visit to Barley Splatt along with her husband and daughter.

I have been an admirer of Graham Ovenden for nearly twenty years, although we only met face-to-face in 2002, when I contacted him to commission a portrait of my daughter, Anouchka. Arriving (rather nervously) at Graham’s home, the legendary Barley Splatt, on a glorious summer’s day, my husband, my daughter and I were greeted by a serene and genial gentleman with a mischievous smile who immediately invited us to join him for a walk up the river. We accepted, little suspecting that up the river meant precisely that; a mile-long walk along the bed of a clear and fast-moving little river, while Graham, in boots, gaiters and floppy hat, glided ahead of us, impervious to rocks, brambles or the occasional stretches of deep water which soaked him to the waist. We took off our shoes and joined him; my daughter with the immediate, unquestioning glee of a puppy off the leash, my husband and I with a hesitancy that quickly—and rather to our surprise turned to pleasure.

I suspect it was a test; a means of determining if we had the spirit, the humour and the joie-de-vivre to cherish a work of art by Graham Ovenden. I suppose we passed; in any case, a few days later he presented us with an acrostic poem dedicated to our daughter, with a handwritten postscript, river-walking will never be the same again. -Joanne Harris, July 2003

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (3a)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (3b)

Of course, the most famous examples of acrostics familiar to Pigtails readers are those of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll).

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—
Children three that nestle near;
Eager eye and willing ear;
Pleased a simple tale to hear—
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen lo waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near
In at Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

I must concur with Harris that Ovenden seems a logical and worthy successor to Carroll in many ways.

For me, it is with Lewis Carroll—and his natural successor, Graham Ovenden—that acrostic verse has the most resonance and style. Both are artists who combine a strong visual aesthetic with a deceptive, childlike simplicity. Both are unashamedly eccentric, taking pleasure in the whimsical and the grotesque. Both are chroniclers of the photographic image, with a particular sensitivity to the transience of youth and beauty.

Both have a special, almost pagan reverence for children and Nature. Both share a deep nostalgia for a golden past that has never quite existed beyond the mystic state of grace represented by childhood. -Joanne Harris, July 2003

It is hard to account for all the variations in the images. Once Partridge submited his drawings, Ovenden might trim them to better show off the particular portrait. If, in hindsight, he was still not pleased with the final result, he would make further revisions for the special editions. For example, his original concept for Eve was fairly simple. But pleased with the results of one of his paintings of this model, Tess, he decided to use that instead.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – ‘Eve’ (original, 1985)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (4a)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (4b)

Ovenden’s original intent was to produce special drawings for each of the portraits, but this plan never materialized. Therefore, the images have a raw on-the-fly quality that reflects the creative impulse of the artist. These works were not planned from beginning to end, but were composed as the muse struck him. Thus an image could be based on almost any medium: photograph, painting, drawing or one of these modified on computer.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (5a)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (5b)

Juliette Liberty (what a wonderful name!) is Peter Blakes’ daughter. You will recognize this image from the ‘Fall from Grace?’ post.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (6a)

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2003) (6b)

In reviewing the history of this project, Partridge got motivated to better document the details. Although an enjoyable process, he did have an odd feeling of “curating my own past”. There are still a few examples that have yet to be used in any final pieces.

Brian Partridge – original drawing for prospective acrostic ‘M’ (1986)

The story does not end in 2003. Since this is a work of inspirational impulse, new pieces have been added. Although Ovenden’s original books were well-sourced and researched, he was not pleased with the production value of the images themselves. So he took it upon himself to learn the craft of printmaking and began publishing hand-printed books with museum-quality paper and bindings. These are fairly expensive volumes for a select clientele which created the impression that Ovenden was no longer productive. He began publishing under the name Garage Press, mostly expensive tomes with a few commercial productions thrown in such as Robin Hanbury-Tenison’s Echos of a Vanished World (2012). So since about 2015, there has been an updated hand-produced version of Acrostics available. Below is one of the new additions to the volume that now contains more than 20 diptychs.

Graham Ovenden and Brian Partridge – Acrostics (2015)

There is a lot more to the Garage Press story and efforts are underway to print more commercial productions that would be accessible to the general public. My next major post will be about this story and give an overview of the titles currently available and what arrangements can be made for the more serious collectors among you to purchase them. And as mentioned above, Brian Partridge’s long overdue post will follow shortly thereafter.

Frances MacDonald

Initially I started with a single image which Christian had sent me, wondering if I knew anything else about it. It was by Frances MacDonald, and I didn’t, but I did immediately notice its resemblance to the work of another artist frequently associated with both the Art Nouveau and Symbolist movements: Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This was no accident. MacDonald was a member of the Glasgow art collective known as The Four, which also included Mackintosh—easily the best known of them—as well as Frances’s better-known sister, Margaret MacDonald (who married Mackintosh) and Frances’ own husband, James Herbert McNair.

The men and women initially knew each other from being students at the Glasgow School of Art, where they quickly took up with each other. In examining the work of all four, it’s easy to see why Charles ultimately gravitated to Margaret while James favored Frances. Charles and Margaret’s work is characterized by tight expressive lines, bold geometrical patterns and intricate detail while James and Frances preferred a looser, muddier style which was, nonetheless, no less elegant than that of their more celebrated compatriots. This style arises most surely from their preferred medium: watercolors.  And all four were clearly influenced by the Celtic motifs of their native country of Scotland.

Of the four, it appears to be Frances’s art which most frequently makes use of children as subjects, girls especially, like those in the scenes below. The first, A Paradox, is the image I received from Christian. It would seem to be a wedding procession, with the nude young bridesmaids or flower girls parading close to the betrothed couple. The scene evokes or references antiquity, where small children often went without clothing up until about age 7 or 8 or so.

Frances MacDonald – A Paradox (1905)

Frances MacDonald – Child in a Rose Bowl

Frances MacDonald – Sleeping Princess (1909)

Frances MacDonald – Sleeping Princess (1909)(detail)

Unfortunately, only a fraction of Frances’s overall work still exists, as her husband destroyed much of it after her untimely demise at the age of 48. One wonders why he felt the urge to do such a destructive act. Was it out of grief, or something more base like jealousy? Perhaps she even requested he do this if she passed on before him, the same way Lewis Carroll requested of his relatives the destruction of the remainder of his photographic work. I simply don’t know, but whatever the case, the world was no doubt cheated of some truly wonderful art.

Note: citations for some of these images credit MacDonald under her married name, Frances McNair.  -Ed.