I’ve posted about German artist Ludwig von Zumbusch before. He was a contributor to Jugend, which is how I became aware of him. Ordinarily I crop out the frame if I download an artwork which includes one but in this case I decided to leave it in, mainly because you can see its shadow on the right side and I couldn’t really eliminate that.
Hey, I still have at least one post in my soap series, but I’ve been quite busy and unable to put it together. I know Pigtails is a bit slow right now, as everyone has been fairly busy with their own things. So, I’ll try to do a few minor posts here and there until I get the next big post out.
Here we have the tsesarevna (crown princess) of Russia, Elizaveta Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great, depicted as Venus, the goddess of love. An interesting choice for a child, which just goes to show how very differently past cultures viewed children. Given the style (early Romanticism), even if I had not known who the subject was I would have placed this sometime in the 1700s. She of course appears in the nude, as would be appropriate for classical gods and goddesses in art. Note how the artist depicted the child with exaggerated feminine features, particularly wider hips than would be common for a child of her age.
A few years ago I did an article on Russian painter Zinaida Serebriakova, whose images of her own daughters are particularly powerful and charming. Well, I was just made aware of a heretofore unknown (to me at least) Serebriakova piece that went up for auction at Sotheby’s a couple of years ago and sold, according to this article (which is in Russian), for around 3.85 million pounds sterling, or nearly six million dollars, making it the most expensive item of the entire lot of mostly Russian paintings sold that day. Although you cannot see the entire painting in the article, there were plenty of full-sized versions online. I chose the best of the bunch to share here.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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’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.
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.
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.
Once again a small faction of loudmouths who are entirely ignorant of art’s long tradition of child nudity are on the hunt, trying to take down this site. When I founded this blog years ago the nude stuff was only one small part of what Pigtails was about. I confess that the attacks and critiques over the years concerning the nudes have ironically only made me post more of it (and focus on it in my own illustration) just to get the goats of those good ol’ boy ignoramuses and fascistically-inclined keyboard warriors who have no understanding of the value of this work or its longstanding and hard-won legal protections. Admittedly that’s not a very good reason to do it, but nor does it invalidate the point of this work. These people apparently cannot look at a nude image of a child without seeing sexual intent behind it. Yes, it is they who are the perverts, these self-glorified hall monitors who seek to remove all challenges to their own sexual discomfort at the mere sight of a nude child, to eliminate all nude child art on the web so it doesn’t serve as a constant reminder that they are so sexually insecure that they cannot look upon a nude child without feeling a tinge of shameful lust.
Thus, they project their feelings onto us and call us the sick ones. Never mind that seeing this stuff constantly has a tendency to remove its mystique and thus diffuse the verboten appeal that is artificially invested in it. Never mind the fact that damn near every major artist from antiquity to the mid-twentieth century created at least one piece devoted to the nude child’s form. Van Gogh, Dalí, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Rembrandt, Picasso, da Vinci, Whistler—in other words, the handful of artists that even most non-art aficionados can name—have all tackled the subject.
Michelangelo was even one of the first artists to depict female putti as well as male:
Donatello’s David is one of the youngest versions of the biblical hero ever depicted—the boy appears to be somewhere between thirteen to fifteen years of age.
Putti were common in all of the Renaissance artists’ work, including Raphael’s. The Christ child was also commonly depicted in the nude.
Ganymede has popped up frequently on our blog lately. Remember that Zeus abducted Ganymede because of his beauty and made the boy one of his lovers as well as official cup bearer of Olympus. Keep that in mind when viewing this next piece.
Nor was their any particular political slant that favored this sort of work. Everyone from far left Soviet artists like Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and Alexander Deineka to far right artists like Francoist painter and illustrator Carlos Sáenz de Tejada and German artists Anselm Feuerbach, Gisbert Palmié, Hans Thoma, Adolf Ziegler and Karl Albiker (all of them official artists of the Third Reich), and everyone in between, created work featuring nude children.
Of course, some of the most popular artists of all time also created child nudes. French Academic painter Adolphe-William Bouguereau, one of the few Victorian artists to get rich from his work within his lifetime, practically specialized in them.
One of the most reproduced images of the modern age is this portrait of Cupid and Psyche as children. I’ve seen it featured on everything from dishes and t-shirts to puzzles and handbags.
In fact, the image which holds the record for being the most reproduced image in history, and the focus of the very first post I ever made at Pigtails in Paint, is this painting by Maxfield Parrish in which one of the models was his then 10-year-old daughter, Jean. Incidentally, the other model in this image (or at least her face) was the granddaughter of famous Nebraskan Democrat William Jennings Bryan. During Bryan’s time the Democrats were the states’ rights party—basically what the Republicans are now—and the Republicans were the federalist party. Their positions would eventually become reversed in the Civil Rights era.
This blog is, if nothing else, a testament to precisely how deep and wide this tradition has been. And that presents a problem to certain parties who would like to keep the masses ignorant of this fact. Hence, the very reason why Pigtails’ existence is so vital. Now, we could stick to the more politically safe works here, but we occasionally flirt with those pieces that are a little dangerous. It’s important to recognize that even dangerous art has validity and value. As Ron pointed out, we were never so naive as to believe that this work would not be challenged. But it is sniveling and cowardly for Shadow Nazis to try to stamp us out by anonymously bullying our providers. We’ve been on the web for years, no doubt closely observed by the authorities. Everything we post is legally vetted and protected art. We have never operated in the shadows and many of the artists we’ve featured are friends of the site—that should demonstrate that we have no ill intentions and nothing to hide. There is not, and never has been, anything untoward going on either in front of or behind the scenes, and I would proudly defend each and every artist and ever piece of art that we’ve shared on this site in a court of law.
The people who are attacking us know this very well. They know that attempting to go through the legal channels would get them nowhere because there is nothing illegal in what we are doing, and the First Amendment, as has been demonstrated in case after case, is on our side. Our attackers thus have no recourse but to make false insinuations about our intent (which, of course, is libel—if they weren’t hiding like the cowards they are they would be open to lawsuits for defamation of character) and to lie to and bully our providers, to scare them into believing things that are not true. The law is on our side and they know it. Our blog would never had lasted as long as it has if that weren’t the case. But these insecure, ignorant fools, most of whom no doubt wouldn’t know their Picasso from a hole in the ground, have taken it upon themselves to equate our well-researched and well-respected site with purveyors of child porn. It’s tragic enough that they can’t recognize legitimate art when they see it, but to label it child porn reveals the utmost disrespect and contempt for the long line of great artists from antiquity to present who have created this fantastic art, as well as everyone who has ever enjoyed it, who have now been reduced to little more than leering and drooling Humbert Humberts for ever getting any pleasure or amusement, no matter how innocent, from the sight of a nude child.
Time and again it has been proven that these sorts of people, the majority of whom are borderline illiterate if we’re being honest, have little understanding of the psychological appeal of the naked youth beyond their own vulgar and limited imaginations. Because of their junior high-level of sexual maturity, they cannot fathom that nudity does not always equate to sex, particularly with respect to children. But even when there is some level of the erotic explored in the underage form, it does not inherently mean that the child is being exploited or that the artist or observers exploring these concepts have perverse intentions, no more than Vladimir Nabokov was laying out his own sexual fantasies when he wrote his masterpiece Lolita. It is simply immature and stupid to think this way.
Grow up, people, and recognize that your simplistic understanding of these issues does not make you right. I realize that your impotency in the face of real-world problems can be temporarily ignored when you manage to take down a website you just don’t like, but your moral outrage is completely misdirected here. In a court of law you would lose, and that is no miscarriage or aberration. It has been tested many, many times. The law is not wrong; you are. Get over it and find something better to do with your time.
While I am not a subscriber to the Freudian philosophy in full, I do find it fascinating and worth looking into from time to time. What most interests me is what I would call proto-Freudianism, a sort of loose and unfocused examination of concepts like the symbolic phallus and vagina in art. The phallus in artistic imagery is well-documented; less so the vagina. When the vagina has been represented symbolically, it generally manifests in two forms: the flower and the vessel. In my post Deflowered, I addressed the latter in a particular context, namely the shattered or broken vessel as it represented the loss of virginity. Here we will examine the same symbol in its purer form, before it is broken. Thus, in Freudian terms we are looking at girls who are still sexually innocent. The symbolism is rarely conscious on the part of artists, but for a Freudian that hardly matters. Of particular concern to us are pieces from the heyday of Freudianism (late 19th to mid 20th century), when artists were more likely to be aware of the sexual symbolism in their work and could choose either to accentuate it or downplay it.
Our first couple of pieces are a pair of objets d’art from unknown artists, Niña con cántaro and Niña llevando un cántaro (Girl with Pitcher and Girl Carrying a Pitcher respectively). In the first, one of the girl’s sleeves has fallen off her shoulder, thus baring one of her nipples. As Journey Darkmoon pointed out in his Chauncey Bradley Ives post, the revelation of the little girl’s nipple symbolizes her innocence, as she is unaware of the deeper connotation of such an act. This, coupled with the vessel at her feet, symbolizes feminine innocence. In the second example, the girl is nude altogether (save for a couple of bows in her hair), but again her innocence is clear.
The trend continues with this set from Lladró. The famous porcelain company’s history of producing charming child pieces is unrivaled.
A common theme running through all of these pieces is nudity, partial nudity or, as in the case of Bessie Potter Vonnoh‘s Garden Figure, an ephemeral sort of drapery. Again, this is all meant to reinforce the fact that these are innocent young girls. The vessels they bear are unbroken for a reason. Vonnoh’s little vessel bearer was later used as part of the Frances Hodgson Burnett Memorial Fountain.
Art Deco and other modern artists tended to focus on early adolescent models rather than prepubescent ones, such as this lighter/ashtray combo piece, Juan Cristobal‘s Niña con cántaro and Joseph Bernard‘s The Water Bearer.
One of my absolute favorite pieces in this vein is Peruvian sculptor Juan José Paredes Antezana’s Niña A. It’s difficult to pin down the date here but the style seems fairly modern.
V. Marseille’s topless adolescent water bearer is a fine modern exemplar of the trend.
Our sole photographic entry in this subject is a piece by Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock. Judging by the iconography on her vessel, this little girl appears to be Arabic or North African, possibly Egyptian. Lehnert & Landrock really deserve a dedicated post of their own on Pigtails. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable on the pair will do us the honor.
This sculpture of a boy and girl retrieving water, which I’ve posted here before, is one of the most blatantly Freudian pieces I’ve ever come across. Here we have two vessels, the water jug, which has a spigot and is held up by the young boy (one of the rare times when the vessel takes on a masculine aspect rather than a feminine one), and the cup in the little girl’s hand. Take note of the almost wanton look on the thirsty girl’s face as she raises her cup to be filled by the boy. Note too how uncomfortably close her cup is to the boy’s genitalia. The boy also sits above the girl, reflecting his sexual dominance of her. Clearly the artist who created this piece (Edme Marie Cadoux) did so with at least some degree of awareness of all these cues. That this would all be accidental seems rather unlikely to me.
Otherwise, even when the vessel is borne by a male, it still retains its feminine attributes, which subtly suggests homosexuality. The context is certainly relevant in this piece by Neoclassical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. In this image we see the goddess Hebe, formerly the cup bearer of the gods, passing her serving vessels on to Ganymede, the boy who replaced her in this duty, while Zeus in his eagle form looks on. If you know your Greek myths, then you are well aware that young Ganymede was also one of Zeus’s lovers.
Speaking of Ganymede, he was the original representative for the zodiac sign Aquarius. Over time a girl or young woman tended to replace Zeus’s catamite in artistic representations of the sign for perhaps obvious reasons. Eduard Steinbrück‘s Die Nymphe der Düssel could’ve been the prototype for modern images of Aquarius. (See also the Deflowered post linked above for symbolism surrounding the adolescent girl dipping her toe into the water.)
Finally, we have a pair of candlesticks, a boy and a girl, by Edward Francis McCartan. Again, even the boy is rather feminized, all the more so for holding an amphora. These are certainly eroticized portrayals of youth, which McCartan was no stranger to.
Carolus-Duran (born Charles Auguste Émile Durand in Lille, France in 1837) was an academic realist painter who focused primarily on portraits of French high society, but he occasionally painted nudes and mythological subjects. Here we have Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, a fitting subject for the (official) 1,000th post at Pigtails in Paint, I think. Hebe was the daughter of Zeus and Hera—the chief god and his wife—and served as cupbearer in Mount Olympus, where the gods resided. Eventually she would marry Heracles (Hercules) and was then replaced by the beautiful boy Ganymede, who was abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle and became not only Olympus’s cupbearer but one of Zeus’s lovers. The story of Ganymede is a fascinating one but beyond the scope of this blog. Anyway, in this lovely work, Zeus—again in the form of an eagle—serves as a perch for his young daughter as she makes her rounds serving nectar and ambrosia to the gods and goddesses of the Greek pantheon.
Austrian painter Johann Baptist Reiter found success as a portraitist in the Biedermeier era, which somewhat overlapped Neoclassicism. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and then got his start painting porcelain, doing a few paintings in between. After winning the Lampi-Preis for an exhibited work, he switched to doing paintings pretty much exclusively, building up his career with genre pieces and then portraits.
What’s interesting about this piece is that it is quite an informal pose, a rarity for the period. I’ve seen plenty of photographs of children in similar poses, and even a few more contemporary paintings and illustrations, but this may be the earliest example of this pose in a painted portrait. Face propped upon one arm, the girl wears a somewhat bored expression. You can easily picture her swinging her feet back and forth as she waits for Herr Reiter to hurry up and finish painting her portrait so she can go outside and play.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.