Samantha Everton’s Vintage Dolls

I must apologize to Arizona and Pigtails readers for not getting to this sooner.  Ideally, this would have been posted before Halloween.  -Ron

Back in 2015 Pip produced a Halloween themed post featuring the work of Samantha Everton. As this is not the artist’s only project to feature girls, I thought it would be a good idea to create another Halloween post featuring her series entitled ‘Vintage Dolls’, which also has a spooky feel to it.

Everton is a multi-awarded and exhibited photographic artist who completed a degree in photography at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. When she graduated in 2003, she was at the top of her class and had also received her first awards, one for having the Highest Aggregate Score Winner for photography students and the other was the Steve Vizard Most Creative Folio Award.

Samantha Everton – Adagio – (2008)

The creation of her photo shoots can sometimes take a year, from sketching the idea, finding the location, sourcing the props, then the models and even deciding on how the styling, hair and makeup appears. In her ‘Vintage Dolls’ shoot the house was the most time consuming prop to find, largely because Everton planned on partially demolishing it. After many months of searching she found a house that was about to be torn down, which also had an owner who was willing to give her complete control of the building. After signing a one month lease she set about changing the appearance of the place by putting up wallpaper, smashing holes in walls and planting a tree in the lounge room.

Samantha Everton – Masquerade – (2008)

The series ‘Vintage Dolls’ is a collection of twelve works depicting several children participating in a surreal game of dress-up and make believe, however the artist never explains the symbolism or narrative content of the images, instead leaving the viewer to guess the meaning behind the photographs. She does give some clues as she explains that:

The house had a ghostly feeling and remnants of a past life; it juxtaposed against the playfulness of the children … It’s like the children are in an attic and they’re play-acting but on a deeper level, I wanted to show how children interact with culture and how they absorb and re-enact what they see. I wanted there to be a child with whom each person could identify.

The two images below show how surreal some of these images can become with the aforementioned tree, featuring in Nocturne, and a levitating cat, appearing in Camellia.

Samantha Everton – Nocturne – (2008)

Samantha Everton – Camellia – (2008)

Each of these images are a meter in width and height, therefore some don’t transfer well to small image sizes. For example, in the image entitled Black Forest you cannot tell whether the child on the bed has her eyes open or not, even a small difference like this can change one’s interpretation of the artwork’s meaning. The reason for including it here is because it seems to be the favourite among these images. At the exhibition for this series when other images had either not sold, or had sold up to only three prints, the Black Forest had sold over six prints.

Samantha Everton – Black Forest – (2008)

While the symbolism to that image is complex and obscure, I cannot see beyond the Red Riding Hood imagery. The next is clearly about racism; in Party Dress a young girl stands in front of a mirror, in reality wearing western clothes, but in the reflection she wears the clothes of her home country. The image suggests that the girl is wishing that she was living in a place that is more accepting of her appearance.

Samantha Everton – Party Dress – (2008)

The next two artworks imply a desire to escape something. In Secret Garden one of the girls looks out a hole in the wall but is seemingly unable to get out there. Whereas in the Bewitching Hour one girl, who is the only child in the series to smile, literally takes flight on a flamingo, while the other unsmiling girl is stuck on a bird that stubbornly refuses to move.

Samantha Everton – Secret Garden – (2008)

Samantha Everton – Bewitching Hour – (2008)

The entire twelve images from this series can be seen on Samantha Everton’s website, though these images are rather small and nine larger images can be found at the Arthouse Gallery website. Additionally, if anyone else wants to share their theories about what any of these images could mean then please leave a comment below.

The Child Portraits of Janet Cumbrae Stewart

Janet Agnes Cumbrae Stewart was born on 23 December 1883 at Brighton, Victoria, she was the youngest of ten children born to Francis Edward Stewart and Agnes Stewart. The artist was home schooled through her childhood and from the age of fifteen received private art instruction, with several different tutors, before enrolling with the National Gallery School in 1901. While enrolled there she received many awards, which in turn gave her recognition and thus began receiving painting commissions. Sometime between 1901 and 1906 the illustrator started to use the surname of Cumbrae Stewart. She graduated art school in 1907 and during the same year she exhibited at the Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, which was her first group exhibition. During the early part of her career she created paintings to sell in art exhibitions and took commissions for private portraiture work. One exception was when she, along with three other artists, decorated the children’s wards of the Homeopathic Hospital, in Melbourne; one such image is displayed below.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Homeopathic Hospital Panel (1910)

At that time Cumbrae Stewart was mostly working with watercolour or oil paints and her subjects were varied. In 1909 the artist started contributing paintings to exhibitions at the Victorian Artists’ Society, which continued until 1919. Her first solo exhibition was held, in 1911, at Coles Book Arcade and was hugely successful providing her with more popularity and work. Due to her success she was able to become a council member of the Victorian Arts Society from 1914 to 1916 and then became a full member of the Australian Artists’ Association from 1916 to 1922; an honour usually reserved for elite male artists.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Girl in a Ballet Dress (1923)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Mary Quinlan, aged 5 (1919)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Portrait of a Young Girl (Date Unknown)

In 1922 Cumbrae Stewart moved to London with her sister Beatrice. The artist had a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, in 1923, which lead to her inclusion in an exhibition of Australian artists held at the Royal Academy of Art. She was also accepted in general exhibitions at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Paris Salon. During the period between 1922 and 1939 the illustrator’s work was exhibited at many of the prominent galleries in England and France. So well received were these artworks that she got an Honourable Mention for a drawing entered in the Salon des Artistes Français. Concurrently to these exhibitions she was also sending works back to Australia. Most of these drawings were exhibited at the Anthenaeum Gallery, with other minor exhibitions occurring at Hordern’s Gallery and the South Australian Society of Arts.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Child by the Fire (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Her First Dress (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Young Girl Washing (Date Unknown)

At some point after her arrival in London and 1930 her sister left and Cumbrae Stewart met Argemore Farington Bellairs, also known as Bill Bellairs, who went on to become the artist’s publicist, business manager and companion. They travelled around Europe, living in various areas, before travelling back to Melbourne in 1939. What was to be a short visit became permanent due to the outbreak of World War II. Not much is written about the artist’s life after 1940, though it is known that she was still completing private portraiture work in addition to exhibiting other works. However as she was now 57 years old, her output would have been greatly reduced. Janet Cumbrae Stewart died on the 8th of September 1960.

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Pink Bonnet (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – Portrait of a Young Girl in a Hat (Date Unknown)

Janet Cumbrae Stewart – The Blue Bathroom (Date Unknown)

The artist was regarded as a leading artist both in the field of pastel drawings and in figure paintings, though her subjects were much more varied and this can be seen in the website galleries of the Australian Art Sales Digest. Studies of landscapes, still-lifes and portraits are all noticeable. However the most significant part of her collection was dedicated to studies of the female nude, both adults and children, in pastel. The anatomical aspect of these drawings are faultless with the skin tones soft and exact, which would likely be the main reason for her fame. When creating these images she never used photography and always worked from life. This article from The Sun newspaper describes in detail how she worked with her child models. The largest, freely available, article about Cumbrae Stewart that I have found can be found within the Trove Archive.

 

Mabel Lucie Attwell

Mabel Lucie Attwell was born on the 4th of June, 1879, at Mile End, London, to Augustus and Emily Ann Attwell. The artist was always interested in drawing and had created a large collection of images by the time she graduated from school. Therefore, she thought that she may be able to sell some of her drawings to supplement her income. She approached an agency for artists who, though sceptical about the sale-ability of the drawings, took some of them. Within a month they had all sold and the agency was asking for more. Soon she was completing enough work, for various publishers, to live on and pay for her study fees.

Attwell spent five years studying art, first at Heatherley’s School of Art, then at St. Martin’s School of Art. The artist failed to complete either course as she had little interest in classical drawing and their other teaching styles, instead preferring to draw from her own imagination. The lack of qualifications did not prevent her from receiving illustrating contracts and was soon commissioned by W & R Chambers to illustrate a series of books. The first was entitled That Little Limb, written by May Baldwin and published in 1905. The image below is a drawing from this book, which when compared with her later illustrations is noticeably different both in style and skill.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – What For Did You Forsake Your Prince (1905)

Whilst studying at St. Martin’s she met Harold Earnshaw, whom she married in 1908. Through her husband’s contacts she came under the management of Francis and Mills, in 1910, and because of their extensive industry contacts and professional handling of her work she was always in demand. Her new managers expanded her work into new areas, which included poster, advertisement and magazine illustrations, with commissions for book work ongoing. The artist’s most recognised book illustrations appeared over the next twelve years; among these titles were Alice in Wonderland, The Water Babies, and Mother Goose. So desirable were her drawings that J.M. Barrie insisted that his publishers approach her and ask her to illustrate a gift book edition of his story Peter Pan and Wendy. The book went on to become a best-seller; the illustrations were some of the most detailed and artistically proficient drawings of her career. Barrie was not the only author to request that Attwell specifically illustrate a book; Marie, Queen of Romania, also requested her services. She provided drawings for two of Marie’s books entitled Peeping Pansy and The Lost Princess.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Oh Dear! Oh Dear! I Shall Be Too Late (1910)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Tom’s Escape (1915)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – May I Come In (1919)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – I Daresay it Will Hurt a Little (1921)

Many book researchers find it difficult to date books from this period since the date was not usually printed in them. However, Attwell has unwittingly provided another method for dating her works. In many of her books the artist would write a dedication to her children as well as draw an image of them, which corresponded to their current ages. For example, below is the frontispiece to The Water Babies. Taking into account that Marjorie was born in 1909, Peter in 1911 and Brian in 1914, it can be assumed this book was published in 1915.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – The Water Babies (Frontispiece) (1915)

In 1911 the illustrator began producing images for Valentine and Sons, a relationship that continued for the rest of her working life. During the 1920s she was producing twenty-four postcards a year for the company. In addition, other drawings were created for their greeting cards, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, plaques and booklets. The Valentine and Sons’ postcards became some of her most sought after as well as best-selling products. Her publishers reported that one design could sell half a million copies each month and they were sold globally.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Just Look at Me — Fido (date unknown)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Broken Doll (date unknown)

The commercial success of Attwell’s images was multifaceted. First there were her subjects: most of her images featured toddlers and young children and the appeal of childhood innocence made the images hugely desirable. Secondly the subjects were often portrayed in a sentimentalised way, which was a style that was hugely popular during the 1920s and ’30s. Additionally, the artist was highly professional when creating her works, often discarding several captions as inferior until she found one that she considered perfect and then created the image. Finally, when producing a design for a postcard she would design it specifically for an adult audience. The images would commonly feature the children in, or talking about, adult situations. I have frequently seen the artist describing this: “I see the child in the adult, then I draw the adult as a child …” which simultaneously sweetens, or makes more tolerable, what would normally be a controversial caption, while also making it somewhat humorous.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Mary Maud Marigold Madeline Marty (date unknown)

In 1922 Cyril Gamon, a publisher, approached Attwell with an idea for producing a children’s book. She accepted and the resulting book The Lucie Attwell Annual became another of her hugely popular products, so much so that it was produced, through reuse of previous material, for a further ten years after her death. During this time it went through several name changes and publishers, which is a matter of confusion for new collectors. The original name was only used over four years, from 1922–26, then it changed titles to become Lucie Attwell’s Children’s Book, until 1932 when Dean and Son’s took over publication and changed the name to Lucie Attwell’s Annual. The drawings that appeared in this book were more simply drawn than her others, largely because the audience had no interest in image quality and it made production many times quicker. The artist drew all of the annual herself and wrote many of the stories and verses.

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Lucie Attwell Annual (Cover) (Date unknown)

Throughout the ’30s and ’40s her popularity and diversity of her products increased. Now there were soft toys and nursery tea sets, based largely on her Boo-Boo characters, in addition to plates, biscuit tins and teapots. Additionally,there were china figurines, made by Shelley Pottery and assorted dolls. The artist’s output started to slow down in the 1940s.  By then she was sixty years old and had large royalties coming in. Yet she maintained her perfectionism and the quality of her images never really diminished. One of her new commissions was a comic strip for the London Opinion entitled Wot a Life.

Mabel Lucie Attwell died on the 5th of November 1964. During her lifetime she created a massive catalogue of work, providing images for over eighty books, in addition to forty of the Lucie Attwell annuals, over five hundred postcard designs and countless advertisement and poster illustrations. Most of her work was done in watercolour in conjunction with pen and ink. Since she had children, she got many of her illustration ideas from normal family occurrences; she also had access to a large number of children to use as models, with many of her friends’ children and her own nieces and nephews on hand. A lot of the images seem to use her daughter Marjorie, more commonly named Peggy, as the model. Compare the following two images as an example: one is of Marjorie, the other is a postcard entitled ‘Time for Bed.’

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Portrait of Marjorie “Peggy” Attwell (date unknown)

Mabel Lucie Attwell – Time for Bed (date unknown)

There are few resources available for researching this artist and many refer back to the one book, which is also the same book I am basing most of my facts on. The book is entitled Mabel Lucie Attwell, written by Chris Beetles and published by Pavilion Books in 1988. It takes most of its information directly from her descendants and the illustrator’s own personal papers, whilst also displaying approximately sixty of her images. The online resources I used, though brief and occasionally inaccurate are listed below.

Additional online resources:

Portraits from a Jungle Paradise – Karolin Klüppel

Karolin Klüppel is a German artist, who to date has produced four albums of work. One of these series is called ‘Mädchenland’ and is set within the village of Mawlynnong, part of the Indian state of Meghalaya. The people of this area are known as the Khasi and are a matrilineal society, whereby the line of succession passes through the youngest daughter and results in women being the main landholders. If the daughter marries then her husband moves into her family’s house and any children that are born take their mother’s name; there is no stigma or disapproval if a woman chooses to stay single. As only daughters can assure the continuity of a clan, women are respected and protected within the Khasi community. However the society is only matrilineal, not matriarchal, as the men still lead Mawlynnong’s village council and are the main employees within the security services.

Karolin Klüppel – Wanda on the Stairs to the Treehouse (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Prosperity (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Phida With Balloon (2013)

The photographer spent nine months living with various families in the village. During this time the villagers became comfortable with her presence, which allowed for the creation of some intimate and natural looking photographs. She chose to take portrait photographs of the young girls, rather than making a photo-documentation of the society, as

I did not want to do a classical documentary on their culture, … I decided to make a portrait series of the girls because I was so impressed by their self-assured appearance and thought that this must be how matrilineality becomes visible.

The images show the children as they interact, play or simply stand within their environment and homes, thereby displaying Mawlynnong’s physical beauty just as much as the girl’s individual beauty. These girls do get schooling, first in the village school until their teens, then they travel to the state capital for higher education, after which they can choose to go to college or return to Mawlynnong.

Karolin Klüppel – Ibapyntngen in the Cottage (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Yasmin Taking Bath at the River (2013)

Karolin Klüppel – Yasmin With Mug (2013)

After its inaugural exhibition ‘Mädchenland’ has gone on to become a multi-awarded and exhibited series and was also published as a book entitled Kingdom of Girls. ‘Mädchenland’ is Karolin’s second series that is focused on a matrilineal society with her previous work, entitled ‘Dabu’, documenting the elderly Mosuo, who live around Lugu Lake, part of China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. A more detailed article about Mädchenland, with fourteen high resolution images, can be found on The New Heroes and Pioneers website.

The Quintessential American Illustrator: Jessie Willcox Smith

Jessie Willcox Smith was born in Philadelphia on September 6, 1863 to Charles Henry Smith and Katherine Dewitt Smith. At the age of sixteen she was sent to Cincinnati to live with her cousins and complete her education. The artist did not have any interest in drawing at this time, therefore she studied teaching and taught at a kindergarten in 1883. By the end of the year she realised that teaching would be an unsuitable occupation. Jessie discovered her talent for drawing by accident. One of her cousins was an art tutor and this cousin asked the artist to chaperone her to and participate in a private art lesson. At the end the lesson it was noticed that her drawings were very good and when her friends saw the drawings they strongly encouraged her to study art.

In 1884 Jessie moved back to Philadelphia to study at the School of Design for Women, now called Moore College of Art and Design, however she found this school to be unsuitable for her interests and transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. While there she had her first image, entitled ‘Five Little Maidens All in a Row’, published in St. Nicholas Magazine.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Five Little Maidens All in a Row (1888)

Jessie graduated in 1888 and took a position in the advertising department at Ladies’ Home Journal where she finished rough sketches, prepared advertising art and designed borders. While working there she was also actively approaching publishers with her illustrations. The publisher Lee and Shepard accepted some of these images and they appeared in a book entitled New and True, by Mary Wiley Staver. Wishing to improve her drawings the artist enrolled in Saturday afternoon classes at Drexel University, where she was taught by Howard Pyle. She studied there from 1894 to 1897, during which time her illustrations became much more realistic looking. Pyle would actively go out and get commissions for the students that he considered to have good artistic abilities and he did this for Jessie when he secured her the job of illustrating, in partnership with Violet Oakley, the book entitled Evangeline, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1897.

After graduating from Drexel Jessie was offered a teaching position there, however, due to her teacher’s help in finding illustration contracts she had achieved some success, so declined the offer. Her new-found financial stability allowed her to leave the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1898. At the turn of the century the artist’s work was in high demand; she was freelancing for several publishers and magazines, including completing a series of covers for Colliers. The artist knew that she could get recognition and contracts by displaying her works at exhibitions. Her artworks received national attention at the Charleston Exposition where one received the Bronze Medal for painting; this would be her first of many awards. Advertising commissions were another source of income and she produced a series of advertisements for Ivory Soap, Kodak and Cream of Wheat. Displayed below is her advertisement for Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company.  This charming image was so well received it was reprinted in many of the popular magazines across America.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company Advertisement (1924)

One of Jessie’s most important works during this period was a calendar called The Child, published in 1902. The calendar was a collaboration with Elizabeth Shippen Green and featured some of their most beautiful child-based images. Almost immediately after publication Stokes, a New York based publisher, asked to reprint the works as a book. Mabel Humphrey was commissioned to write a series of poems and short stories to match the illustrations and The Book of The Child was published in 1903. It became so popular that both artists would be guaranteed illustrating contracts well into the future. More recognition followed later that year when the artist exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts and subsequently won the Mary Smith Prize.

The majority of Jessie’s works can be found in magazines which, due to their low sales price, were a popular form of entertainment at the time. As women were the main readership of magazines, editors would seek out women artists who could produce the images that these readers desired to see. The artist’s sentimentalised and idealised illustrations neatly fitted into this requirement and she was constantly in demand. An example of this demand can be seen in 1905 when she was commissioned to work exclusively for Colliers. However she felt that this was a restriction on her art, as she had to decline several other projects because of this work agreement; therefore in 1907 she ended the contract and went back to freelancing. The decision to go back to freelancing was a good idea as she received a commission from Good Housekeeping magazine, which eventually lead her to create every cover image for this magazine from December 1917 through to April 1933, becoming the artist with the longest consecutive run of magazine covers. Some of these covers can be found at the Good Housekeeping website.  She also produced a series of Mother Goose drawings for this magazine, which were then reproduced in the book entitled The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose, published by Dodd, Mead, and Company in 1914.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Good Housekeeping Cover (1929)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Mother Goose (1914)

Book illustrations were a major source of income for Jessie with about fifty books known to contain her images. Her most well-known book illustrations appeared in The Water-Babies. Published in 1916 by Dodd, Mead, and Co., the book was of high quality and the images, printed on glossy paper, displayed her technical abilities and proficiency at using mixed media more than any other published works. The artist must also have considered these to be some of her best works as she bequeathed all twelve of the originals to the Library of Congress, which are now viewable online. Many of the books by Jessie were produced for a global market and there was such high demand for some that many reprints occurred, even now you are able to find some of these reprints. As she was being paid royalties for all these re-releases and wanting to spend more time on private portraiture commissions, she largely stopped producing images for books in 1925. The books containing her illustrations that did appear after 1925 would only have a few images, usually as a frontispiece or dust wrapper. I also suspect that old age—she was sixty-two in 1925—and the demands of having to create multiple original illustrations in a short amount of time would also be a reason for stopping book contracts.

Jessie Willcox Smith – A Childs Garden of Verses (1905)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Summer Passing (1908)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Merry Christmas (1917)

Having rarely travelled, the artist was eventually convinced by friends to go on a European tour, accompanied by a trained nurse. Rather than having a positive affect, this journey simply made all her health problems worse and two years after returning she died on May 3, 1935, at the age of seventy-one.

Smith’s style changed a lot through her career. At the start of her working life she would create black and white images in charcoal and her colour images were mostly watercolours with pen and ink outlines to highlight objects and people in a style often described as “Japanesque”. In later works she became skilled in mixed media, overlaying watercolour and oils on charcoal to get the desired effect. The artist would rarely use professional models and greatly disliked them. When talking about professional models in an interview she expressed the opinion that

Such a thing as a paid and trained model is an abomination and a travesty on childhood – a poor little crushed and scared, unnatural atom, automatically taking the pose and keeping it in a spiritless and lifeless manner. The professional child model is usually a horribly self-conscious, overdressed child …

 

Instead she would use the children of friends and from some of the wealthy families of Philadelphia, she also adapted or reused paintings from her portraiture work, as these children created highly natural and realistic images. She would also photograph and do quick sketches of the children as they sat and played in her studio and gardens which would become part of a large file of images to use when she did not have models available. It is not known why most of her images featured children, though it can be presumed that she did have an intense love for them, based on her first career choice of teaching young children. Having children as models could also have filled in for the lack of her own children. Additionally, she was not creating drawings due to market demands, as all magazine illustrators prior to Jessie’s appearance produced images of women engaged in household work, yet these painters kept receiving contracts despite the absence of children.

Jessie Willcox Smith – Ann and Mary Leisenring (1922)

Jessie Willcox Smith – Jeanne C. Flood (1929)

When compiling this work, I extensively used two books these are: Jesse Willcox Smith: American Illustrator (1990) by Edward D. Nudelman, printed by Pelican Publishing and Jessie Willcox Smith (1977) by S. Michael Schnessel, printed by Studio Vista. Both books have several dozen images by the artist and extensive biographies with Schnessel’s book containing the most written information. I also found that at least twelve of her books have been digitised on archive.org, this includes some of her most well-known works. Lastly, when referencing her first published illustration many sources say it is ‘Three Little Maidens’, however, I have said five as this was the number mentioned in both biographies and the accompanied image clearly shows five children.

Few images from The Book of the Child appear on the internet.  Two of the images appear on Pigtails’ 5th Anniversary post, one from Smith and one from Green.  The remaining images will be published on this site as time permits.  -Ron

Bessie Pease Gutmann

Bessie Collins Pease was born on April 8, 1876 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Horace Collins Pease and Margaretta Darrach Young. The artist showed an early interest in art and by the age of sixteen she had entered and won many prizes at amateur art competitions. Her formal art training began in 1893 when she commenced her studies at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. In 1896 Bessie decided that New York would be the best place to pursue her art career and after moving there she started two years of study at the New York School of Art.

The artist’s first paid work came from illustrating name cards and place cards, painting people’s portraits, as well as creating images for newspaper and magazine advertisers. After completing her course at the New York School of Art she enrolled at The Art Students League of New York. While studying there she met her future employer, Bernhard Gutmann, who after observing her portfolio of work invited her to work for his business. The firm Gutmann and Gutmann, formed in 1902 by Hellmuth and Bernhard Gutmann, was an art print business and Bessie was employed as a commercial artist to create fine art prints, illustrations for magazines and books, while still accepting commissions from other firms. In her first four years of employment she created at least fifty images for magazines and illustrated eight books, two of which were very popular at the time of publication and are still well known today. The first book is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1905, which was also her first book commission, additionally there is the 1907 publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1906 she married Hellmuth and changed her signature from Bessie Collins Pease to Bessie Pease Gutmann.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The First Dance Lesson (1923)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Harmony (1940)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Now I Lay Me (1912)

Between 1906 and 1920 her art adorned 22 magazine covers including Pictorial Review, McCall’s and Woman’s Home Companion, among others. The artist’s cover work brought her recognition and awards, both in the United States and Europe. Additionally, during this period she produced seventy-two postcards that became some of Gutmann and Gutmann’s most highly sought after and profitable products. The popularity of these postcards can be attributed to the fact that her illustrations avoided the social issues of the day, which in others was a common theme. The postcards had a broad range of subjects and could be purchased either singly or as a series. The groups entitled ‘The Five Senses’ (1909) and ‘Events in a Woman’s Life’ (1911) became so popular they were framed and sold in the department stores of New York City and Boston. Due to the high demand for these products at least ten different printing firms had to be used with Reinthal and Newman from America, Charles A. Hauff and The Alphasa Publishing Company of London being the principal printers. These works helped to popularise her images and therefore her sales of art prints also increased.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Pictorial Review Magazine (Cover) (1917)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The Five Senses (1909)

Bessie’s work was at its height of popularity in the 1920s. During this time the artist focused almost exclusively on producing art prints. There was no record kept on the number of copies that were printed or sold, but it has been estimated that the total number of prints, for images like A Little Bit of Heaven, The Awakening and In Shame, would number in the millions and were sold on a global scale. These huge numbers mean it is still possible to buy many of Bessie’s prints today and for less than one hundred dollars. Though famous for her images of babies and toddlers these are not the only subjects she focused on. Mothers with babies, cherubs, brides, war and religious themes as well as a small number of colonial America illustrations also appear in her portfolio.

Bessie’s popularity started to decline in the mid-1930s as America, and the rest of the world, started to take an interest in art styles that neither she nor her employer had any interest in producing. The war further hindered art production by restricting the amount of quality art paper and labourers needed to produce prints. In 1948 Hellmuth died, and thus Gutmann and Gutmann was sold, and the artist retired from commercial work.  However, she did continue to paint what she called her “relaxation art.” These images where mainly floral and fruit arrangements, still-lifes and landscapes. Bessie Pease Gutmann died on September 29, 1960, at the age of 84.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Springtime (1927)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Goldilocks (1921)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Symphony (1921)

The artist used many different forms of painting media in her works. At the beginning of her career she was using watercolor paint with ink and pen outlines while her most popular works were created with charcoal pencil and then applying a light watercolor wash. When making her images she differed from other painters as she worked from photographs rather than models. She always carried around a camera and was constantly taking pictures of nieces, nephews, her own and friends’ children in various natural and unposed situations. Bessie kept an album of these photographs which she could study for use in future paintings. Below is an example of one such photograph and the resulting painting.

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The New Pet (Date Unknown)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – The New Pet (1922)

There is little information about the artist on the internet, therefore people wanting information should look at the book Bessie Pease Gutmann: Her Life and Works by Victor J. W. Christie which contains the most information. Other resources of use can be found at her Wikipedia page.

Inspired by the Old Masters: Bill Gekas

Bill Gekas is a portrait photographer who is self-taught. He started his work in the mid 1990s, however, the artist’s first works were not published on the internet until 2010. These early works, mostly portrait-style photographs, quickly gained attention and praise; therefore the photographer started to enter them in competitions with many of them placing or winning outright.

Bill Gekas – Untitled (2016)

Bill Gekas – Red Beret (2011)

Bill Gekas – Andalucia 1881 (2012)

Most of his works are modelled by his daughter, Athena, and are inspired by, though not direct recreations of, the Old Master painters. The planning of the photograph takes many hours. First a sketch of the image is made in a sketch book, then the props and costume are sourced or made. The actual production of these pictures only takes between fifteen minutes to an hour, with most of the time spent on setting up props, the camera and lighting. The model is then brought in at the end of the set-up process and the photograph taken. When working with Athena, the creative process is made more enjoyable for her by keeping her time on the set to a minimum, as well as allowing her to act out the scene, rather than being told to pose or given direction. Additionally, she is also involved in and provides ideas during the preplanning of the shoot, which makes the process a collaboration between artist and model. Only a small number of these images are produced each year, as photography is not the artist’s primary source of income.

Bill Gekas – Field Day (2013)

Bill Gekas – The Curator (2015)

Bill Gekas – Pears (2011)

Bill Gekas – Coastal Gatherer (2016)

Not all of Bill’s images are in the classical style, or feature his daughter, with his 500px account being the best site to see his full range of photographs. Recently he has taken a detour into street photography, which the artist finds liberating, as it is the opposite of his portrait style photography, where he had full control of the final image, to a process where the only control is where the photographer places himself and when he pulls the shutter. The street photography images can be found on his Instagram account.

Bill Gekas – Mutual (2015)

Bill Gekas – Urban Jungle (2016)

The best and most detailed online interview with Bill Gekas can be found in Issue 10 of Creative Light Magazine; if you have a spare twenty minutes you should read it.

More Than a Fairy Artist: Margaret Tarrant

Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888–1959) was born in Battersea, England, on 19th August, 1888. She was the only child of Percy Tarrant, who was a famous landscape painter, and Sarah Wyatt.

There are no detailed biographies about the artist, despite her fame and prolific output, though we do know that she started her studies at Clapham High School and after graduating in 1905, continued her education at the Clapham School of Art. She briefly studied teaching, however her father believed she was unsuited to this profession and redirected her attention towards painting. Once established as an artist she studied at Heatherley’s School of Art from 1918 till 1923, as she believed a new school would improve her technique.

Margaret Tarrant - (Unknown Title) (1916)

Margaret Tarrant – (Unknown Title) (1916)

Margaret Tarrant - Dream Ships (date unknown)

Margaret Tarrant – Dream Ships (date unknown)

Tarrant’s first published works were Christmas cards and in 1908 she illustrated her first book, an edition of The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. The following year she created a series of paintings that were published as postcards by C.W. Faulkner. Over the next decade the artist continued to paint for various postcard publishers and also made illustrations for several books. Many of these works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Walker Royal Society of Artists and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

Margaret Tarrant - Prim Told Him Her Story (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Prim Told Him Her Story (1951)

Margaret Tarrant - Peter and Friends (1921)

Margaret Tarrant – Peter and Friends (1921)

Margaret Tarrant - Good Morning Little Red Riding Hood (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Good Morning Little Red Riding Hood (1951)

During the 1920s fairies became popularised, helped by the publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book Do You Believe in Fairies? and Tarrant was a major part of this scene. During this decade she collaborated with Marion St. John Webb on a series of fairy books, which displayed images of fairies along with short stories and poems. The books were similar to Cecily Mary Barker’s, both artists were friends, however they differed as Tarrant’s pictures were less naturalistic, more stylised and in the Art Nouveau style. Fairy stories were not the only type of paintings that the artist produced, she also created illustrations for children’s stories, books about animals, poems and verses. Additionally, she created a series of wild flower postcards, that she considered to be her best work, and religious themes appeared often. Many examples of her religious paintings can be found in this Flickr album.

Margaret Tarrant - Sycamore (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Sycamore (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Grapes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Grapes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Yellow Horned Poppy (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Yellow Horned Poppy (1920s)

After 1920 the artist was working almost exclusively for the Medici Society, who turned her paintings into postcards, calendars, greeting cards and prints. In 1936 the Society sent her on a holiday to Palestine where she enjoyed sketching landscapes and street scenes, two subjects that she rarely painted prior to this trip.

Margaret Tarrant - The Animals That Talked (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – The Animals That Talked (1951)

Margaret Tarrant - Shepherd Pipes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Shepherd Pipes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Toinette Sat Very Still (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Toinette Sat Very Still (1951)

During the 1940s Tarrant slowed her output, though she did donate a lot of paintings to the war effort and produced images for about six books. With her health and eyesight deteriorating she stopped working in the mid-1950s and died from Multiple Myeloma in July 1959, leaving some pictures to friends and the rest of her estate to twelve charities.

The artist worked in many media, including pen, watercolor, graphite and silhouette type drawings. Her work is still popular today and the Medici Society is still selling prints on it’s website.

The Child Portraits of Rennie Ellis

For those exploring the work of Rennie Ellis, the genre of child photography is not one that you would immediately think about. However, due to the large size of his portfolio the artist has made a contribution. These images rarely make an appearance in any books about the photographer—there are less than five child images in each. Additionally, they are largely absent on any of the internet sites that detail his work which probably makes this webpage the only place which brings together a collection of his child portraits.

Rennie Ellis - Children in Melbourne and Suburbs (1980s) (1)

Rennie Ellis – Children in Melbourne and Suburbs (1980s) (1)

Rennie Ellis - (Untitled) (1974)

Rennie Ellis – (Untitled) (1974)

Reynolds Mark Ellis (1940–2003) was born in Brighton, Melbourne. After finishing high school at Brighton Grammar, he received a scholarship to Melbourne University in 1959. The artist dropped out of the course during his first year and started working at Orr, Skate & Associates, an advertising agency, where he stayed for three years. In order to further his knowledge he started studying advertising at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Before he completed the course the desire for adventure and other experiences took hold and he went on a two-year tour of Europe, the USA, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Asia. As a way of documenting the journey he bought a camera and started to take photographs of the places visited; these images were the beginnings of the photographers artistic career.

When Ellis returned to Melbourne he obtained his Diploma in Advertising and started working at Jackson Wain Advertising, though this only lasted a year. Then he took up the position of Creative Director at Monahan Dayman Advertising. After two years the artist became tired of this work, so he became a freelance photojournalist. Photojournalism allowed him to create the photographs he wanted, which he described in an interview with Industrial and Commercial Photography magazine.

I gradually got disenchanted with advertising as a career, sick of the contrived situations, and became very interested in capturing real life situations, venturing out into the world and trying to record both in words and on film what people were doing, their attitudes and lifestyles, particularly of the subcultures and unusual people and places.

During the 1970s Ellis focused on creating, publicising and selling his art. The art of photography was struggling to gain relevance and acceptance in Australian society at this time so, in 1972, the artist set up the Brummels Gallery of Photography. The gallery was Australia’s first to focus solely on photographs and was a venue in which established and emerging Australian photographers could exhibit and sell their creative work without commercial restraints and in doing so would help redefine photography as fine art. The gallery always struggled to find financial support and despite receiving a Visual Arts Board of Australia Council grant to operate for one year, as well as receiving sponsorship from Pentax, by early 1980 the gallery was no longer financially viable and it was closed permanently. Ellis set up Scoopix Photo Library in 1974, which became another way of publicising and distributing both his own and other photographers’ work. The business sold images, both nationally and internationally, and eventually became affiliated with the famous Black Star agency. During this period he also set up his photographic studio, Rennie Ellis & Associates.

The photographers images of children are vastly different from his more well-known images. For those unaware of Ellis, he was a self-confessed party lover and voyeur so most of his published work displays his more voyeuristic side. Unlike today, the time when the artist was working was more innocent and people mostly ignored him as he snapped away. Therefore the photographer made many images at the beach, discos, night and strip clubs, some of these times as official photographer doing commission work and other times for personal enjoyment. These images were reproduced in many of his exhibitions and books. Working on commission gave behind-the-scenes access. This access allowed him to document, both in front of stage and backstage, many of the fashion shows occurring in Melbourne and in the homes of famous people, which would occasionally include their children.

Rennie Ellis - (Untitled) (1985)

Rennie Ellis – (Untitled) (1985)

Rennie Ellis - Stephanie (1999)

Rennie Ellis – Stephanie (1999)

Another significant area of his portfolio are his photographs of the Melbourne Cup, a horse racing event that was documented for more than twenty years. Working for the newspapers and magazines gave him a special access pass into the marquees and party tents, though he did not restrict himself to these areas. Whilst at the Melbourne Cup he travelled everywhere, from the car park to the members area. He also photographed in the public grandstands, the betting ring and amongst the picnickers on the lawn areas. Many of these images appeared in his book entitled Cup Fever.

Rennie Ellis - (Untitled) (1983)

Rennie Ellis – (Untitled) (1983)

Rennie Ellis - Phar Lap at Flemington & Roses (1990s)

Rennie Ellis – Phar Lap at Flemington & Roses (1990s)

On viewing Ellis’ archive it can be seen that he had a strong desire to make a historical record for future generations to view. He nearly constantly carried a camera with him so that every time there was an important event happening, he managed to document the event and added more images to his collection. Displayed below are some of the many images the photographer took of the 2002 Anti-War Rally and the parades celebrating Australia’s armed forces and associated support groups.

Rennie Ellis - (Untitled) (2002)

Rennie Ellis – (Untitled) (2002)

Rennie Ellis - Kids Marching in Street Parade (1983)

Rennie Ellis – Kids Marching in Street Parade (1983)

Another way that these images document history is by showing the changing values and attitudes of society. For example, prior to 1980 nobody knew about the dangers of prolonged sun exposure, therefore being topless at the beach was common. However, as time passed public awareness campaigns were created, so people became more knowledgeable about the risks and, by the late nineties. nearly half the children on Australian beaches wore some type of neck to knee sun protection clothing or wet suits, with toplessness being nearly absent.

Rennie Ellis - Children in Melbourne and Suburbs (1974)

Rennie Ellis – Children in Melbourne and Suburbs (1984)

Rennie Ellis - (Untitled) (1980s)

Rennie Ellis – (Untitled) (1980s)

Rennie Ellis - Lorne (1998)

Rennie Ellis – Lorne (1998)

Many of the photographer’s child portraits appear in his albums of friends, family or street photography. He could take these images not only because of the more innocent times but also because many were taken within the neighbourhood of his studio where Ellis was a familiar person. Also the artist had a charming and engaging type of personality that made him hugely likable and it would then be hard to deny him the opportunity to photograph.

Rennie Ellis - Little Girl's Birthday Party (1976)

Rennie Ellis – Little Girl’s Birthday Party (1976)

Rennie Ellis - Communion (1980s)

Rennie Ellis – Communion (1980s)

Rennie Ellis - Woolloomooloo (Date unknown)

Rennie Ellis – Woolloomooloo (Date unknown)

Rennie Ellis - Children in Melbourne and Suburbs (1980s) (2)

Rennie Ellis – Children in Melbourne and Suburbs (1980s) (2)

The artist’s preferred way of documenting his work was through the publication of books—seventeen books were eventually published during his lifetime. The books mirror his archive in their diversity. There are only two subjects that are repeated in the photographer’s bibliography, three books about the beach, which focus mainly on images of women and surf culture, and three books on graffiti. The books about graffiti gives us an insight into the attitudes and concerns held at the time they were photographed; some of these are insightful and some hilarious, which is the reason they became some of his most well-known books. Due this focus on books he only held ten solo exhibitions and was part of thirty group exhibitions in his lifetime.

Rennie Ellis - Marxism and Leninism (1974)

Rennie Ellis – Marxism and Leninism (1974)

In 2003 Ellis died from a cerebral haemorrhage leaving us an archive so vast it can only be estimated at about half a million images. I believe that the artist did succeed in his effort to make a historical record of Australian society between 1970 and 2000 as well as capturing the broad character of Australia and its people. The Rennie Ellis Archive (REA) is now held in the State Library of Victoria; fifteen thousand of the images have been digitised. It should be mentioned that anyone going there to see his child portraits will have to look at 14600 images that do not have children in them. For a more brief, but still varied, representation of his portfolio there is the website for the REA.

Pioneering Female Photojournalism: Esther Bubley

Esther Bubley was a freelance photographer that was active from 1945 to 1965. Many of her images are highly valued as historical documents as they cover a wide array of different social subjects. Mostly she photographed people going about their everyday lives, like workers and travellers on the American interstate bus network, children at play, medical workers and their patients or family life at home. She was remarkable as photo journalism was a male-dominated field at the time. So for a woman to be have an ongoing job in this field that also gave her a secure income was rare. Most images she made were not staged, which allowed her to take some truly intimate and natural photographs. The artist said she achieved this by becoming part of the daily rhythm of the hospital and disappearing into the background with her camera.

Esther Bubley - Children watching the animals at the National Zoological Park (1943)

Esther Bubley – Children Watching the Animals at the National Zoological Park (1943)

Esther Bubley - Children playing in a fountain in Dupont Circle (1943)

Esther Bubley – Children Playing in a Fountain in Dupont Circle (1943)

Esther Bubley (1921–1998) was born in Phillips, Wisconsin, the fourth of five children to Louis and Ida Bubley. She was inspired to start photography after viewing LIFE magazine and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) images of depression-era America. After high school, Esther spent two years at Superior State Teachers College then spent her third year at the Minneapolis School of Art where she studied photography.

In 1941 she moved to New York City to become a professional photographer and her first paid job was at Vogue where she photographed still-life images. Disliking this job, she moved to Washington D.C. where she found employment at the National Archives and spent her days making microfilm. Soon after, in the fall of 1942, Roy Stryker hired her as a darkroom assistant at the Office of War Information (OWI). During her spare time the artist made images of the daily events occurring in the Washington area. Her employer noticed the quality of these images and thought she would be able to add to the photo archives of the OWI. He hired her as a staff photographer and sent her on a six week journey across the country to document the lives of Americans during World War II. These photographs were then added to the OWI archives, which are now housed at the Library of Congress.

Esther Bubley - Spectators at the parade to recruit civilian defence volunteers (1943)

Esther Bubley – Spectators at the Parade to Recruit Civilian Defence Volunteers (1943)

Esther Bubley - Passengers standing in the aisle of a Greyhound bus (1943)

Esther Bubley – Passengers Standing in the Aisle of a Greyhound Bus (1943)

In late 1943, when Stryker left the government to set up a public relations project for Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) (SONJ), he brought with him many OWI workers, which included Bubley. Her work at SONJ was part of a huge photo-documentary project that had the aim of promoting the business and enhancing its reputation. Two of the artists’ best known projects come from this period. The first was a portrayal of the oil town of Tomball, Texas and the second, the “Bus Story,” which showcased the role of long-distance bus travel in American life that is accomplished through the use of oil products. Some images are now at the University of Louisville.

Esther Bubley - Children playing near schoolhouse, Tomball, Texas (1947)

Esther Bubley – Children Playing Near Schoolhouse, Tomball, Texas (1945)

Waiting room at bus terminal (1947)

Esther Bubley – Waiting Room at Bus Terminal (1947)

During this period she was briefly married to Edwin Locke, but they soon divorced. By 1947 Bubley’s work had expanded and she was now freelancing for several organisations. One of these organisations was the Children’s Bureau, a Federal child welfare agency. Over several years her images appeared in their journal, The Child, including more than thirty covers.

Esther Bubley - Child Monthley (Cover) (1947)

Esther Bubley – Child Monthly (Cover) (1949)

The following year, her work made its first appearance in a group exhibition called ‘In and Out of Focus’—her first of four appearances—at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). A magazine that she created a lot of images for was the Ladies’ Home Journal. There she produced a photo essay on mental illness, which was awarded a first prize in the Encyclopaedia Britannica/University of Missouri School of Journalism contest. The medically-themed photos continued when she was hired by the Pittsburgh Photographic Library to live in the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and document the activities within, a commission which took several months. Originally intended as a story in LIFE magazine, this was cancelled in favour of documenting the Queen Elizabeth II coronation. However, thirteen prints from this series were made publicly available when they were displayed in the exhibition ‘Diogenes with a Camera,’ held at MoMA. She also documented life at Blythedale Convalescent Home for Children, in New York, for the Children’s bureau. An example of this work is displayed below.

The artist’s most internationally recognised work appeared in 1953 when she was hired by UNICEF and the French government to travel to Morocco to photograph a program to treat trachoma. Over several months she travelled around Ouarzazate documenting people receiving medical treatment and the positive aspects of UNICEF’s work.

Esther Bubley - Esther Bubley's World of Children (1981) (1)

Esther Bubley – (Untitled) (1948)

Esther Bubley - African child (1953)

Esther Bubley – African Child (1953)

Bubley produced many other overseas photo projects, such as photographing the areas of Central and South America where Pepsi-Cola sold and manufactured their product. These images were then published in their corporate magazine Panorama, which was distributed to their bottlers and shareholders. Then in 1964 and ’65 Pan American World Airways sent her on a world tour to document the areas they serviced. These images were then published in their corporate magazine The Clipper, which was distributed to employees and shareholders.

Between 1950 and 1965 the photographer freelanced for many magazines; her stories focused on medicine, families and social issues. Many of her articles appeared in LIFE—two were cover stories. Additionally, she created a dozen photo stories for the Ladies’ Home Journal series ‘How America Lives,’ which ran intermittently between 1948 and 1960. The series was very popular and was expanded into two new series: ‘How Young America Lives,’ which profiled teenagers, and ‘Profiles on Youth,’ about children. Also of note during this decade was the appearance of several images in ‘The Family of Man’ exhibition.

Esther Bubley - LIFE (Cover) (1951)

Esther Bubley – LIFE (Cover) (1951)

Esther Bubley - Esther Bubley's World of Children (1981) (2)

Esther Bubley – (Untitled) LIFE magazine (1961)

Esther Bubley - Esther Bubley's World of Children (1981) (3)

Esther Bubley – (Untitled) Ladies’ Home Journal (1948)

After 1965 the artist reduced her workload, as the frequent travelling became tiring. Instead, she focused on projects of personal interest and photographed the New York area, where she lived. During this time she created a book featuring macro photography of plants, two books about pets and a book documenting 159 of her child photographs entitled Esther Bubley’s World of Children. Unfortunately the book doesn’t mention titles or dates for the images contained within. She died in New York City, of cancer, on March 16, 1998.

The website about Esther Bubley’s career contains a lot of information about the work she completed, though there are only about 200 images of average quality. Another book, which contains about thirty-six images by Bubley, appears on archive.org. Entitled ‘Your Child from 6 to 12,’ it is an interesting read detailing child care in 1949.