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:

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.

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.

Creator of the Flower Fairies: Cicely Mary Barker

Cicely Mary Barker (1895–1973) was born on 28 June, 1895 in Croyden, England, to Walter Barker and Mary Eleanor Barker. As a child she suffered from epilepsy so her parents thought it would be safer for her to be home-schooled by a governess. She spent a lot of her time drawing and painting and her father decided to pay for a correspondence course in art which she continued until at least 1919. He also enrolled her in evening classes with the Croyden School of Art in 1908, which she attended until the 1940s and eventually became a teacher there.

Cicely’s parents noticed the quality of her drawings—that they might be good enough for publishing—so they took examples to publishers and printers. The artist’s first published works appeared in 1911 when Raphael Tuck, the printer, bought four drawings and turned them into postcards. In October 1911 she won second prize in a poster competition run by the Croydon Art Society, and shortly after was elected the youngest member of the Society.

After her father’s untimely death in 1912, her older sister, Dorothy, tried to support the family by teaching in private schools then opening a kindergarten at home. The artist also contributed to the finances of her family by selling poetry and illustrations to magazines such as My Magazine, Child’s Own and Raphael Tuck annuals. Additionally, she exhibited and sold work at the Croydon Art Society and at the Royal Institute. She also designed postcards for various printing firms.

Cicely Mary Barker - Because He Came... (date unknown)

Cicely Mary Barker – Because He Came… (date unknown)

After approaching several publishers. Cicely’s first book was accepted by Blackie and published in 1923. Entitled Flower Fairies of the Spring, the book contained watercolour paintings with pen and ink outlines of fairies situated in idyllic settings with each image accompanied by a small song. As fairies were popular at this time the book sold well and also received many positive reviews, consequently over the next thirty-two years another nine flower fairy books were produced.

Cicely Mary Barker - A Flower Fairy Alphabet (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – A Flower Fairy Alphabet (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker - Flower Fairies of the Wayside (1948)

Cicely Mary Barker – Flower Fairies of the Wayside (1948)

Though she is most often remembered for her flower fairies, they are far from the only books she produced. During the 1920s the artist also created images and wrote some of the songs for several books of songs and verse.

Cicely Mary Barker - Old Rhymes For All Times (1928)

Cicely Mary Barker – Old Rhymes For All Times (1928)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Children’s Book of Hymns (1929)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Children’s Book of Hymns (1929)

She was also an author of three stories with the first, The Lord of the Rushie River, published in 1938. As the book sold well, Blackie requested that she write another and Groundsel and Necklaces was published in 1946 and later renamed Fairy Necklaces when it was re-released in 1991. The third book she wrote was Simon the Swan which was completed in 1953, however Blackie ignored the book and it was not until 1988, fifteen years after the author death, that it got published. The paintings in these three stories differed from the flower fairy images as they were painted with either pastel or oil paint.

Cicely Mary Barker - Groundsel and Necklaces (1946)

Cicely Mary Barker – Groundsel and Necklaces (1946)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Lord of the Rushie River (1938)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Lord of the Rushie River (1938)

The artist was a devout Christian and produced many illustrations for Christian themed books and postcards. She also donated works to churches either for resale or display and I am showing one of her most recognised paintings The Parable of the Great Supper produced for St. George’s Church, Waddon.

Cicely Mary Barker - The Parable of the Great Supper (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Parable of the Great Supper (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Parable of the Great Supper detail (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Parable of the Great Supper detail (1934)

The painting that hangs in the church is a triptych. The larger centre panel is entitled ‘The Great Supper’ and illustrates one of Jesus’ parables where ordinary people are brought in from the highways and byways to share in a great king’s feast, symbolising the inclusive spirit of Christianity. The two smaller side panels show St John the Baptist and Saint George.

The artist’s work slowed down in the 1950s, as she was teaching art at this time, then in 1954 her sister died so she became solely responsible for the care of her mother. The royalties from her books largely supported their life and occasionally she would do portrait commissions for extra money. When her mother died in 1960 Cicely’s health started to fail and she passed away in 1973.

Cicely Mary Barker - Portrait of Ianthe Barker (1951)

Cicely Mary Barker – Portrait of Ianthe Barker (1951)

Cicely Mary Barker - He Leadeth Me (1936)

Cicely Mary Barker – He Leadeth Me (1936)

Cicely Mary Barker - Flower Fairies of the Trees (1940)

Cicely Mary Barker – Flower Fairies of the Trees (1940)

The artist’s style was largely influenced by Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott as their books were popular during her childhood so she would have spent a lot of time reading them. She was also influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites Sir John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones. She admired them as they painted directly from nature and they could depict flora and fauna with near exactitude. The artist achieved her own botanical accuracy by referring to botanical books or having staff from Kew Gardens bring her specimens to paint. All the people featured in her images were real and were sourced from her sister’s kindergarten or were local villagers. She also had a habit of carrying a sketchbook with her and would quickly sketch any interesting child she saw while in public places. The costumes that the children wear were also created by her and after the painting was completed the fabric was recycled into new costumes.

In 1989, Frederick Warne, a division of Penguin Books, acquired the Flower Fairies properties and turned it into the commercial behemoth it is today. Half of the artist’s books were re-released in the 1980s and ’90s and you can buy flower fairy quilts, linen, fabric, stationary, figurines and many other products.

If you would like to see some of her religious works there are some images in this Flickr account and two articles, one at The Croydon Citizen and another at the Inside Croyden Blog.

The Welsh Pixie: Pixie O’Harris

Pixie O’Harris MBE (1903–1991) was born Rhona Olive Harris in Cardiff, Wales. She was the sixth of nine children born to portraitist George Frederick Harris and Rosetta Elizabeth Harris (née Lucas). It was her father, who was chairman of the Art Society of South Wales and a frequent exhibitor at both the Royal Academy and Walker Art Gallery, that encouraged her and her siblings to take up art as a hobby. The artist became a member of the Royal Art Society of South Wales and started to exhibit her work there from the age of fourteen. At the time, she was still signing with her birth name of Rhona Harris.

Rhona O. Harris - (Untitled Illustration) (1919)

Rhona O. Harris – (Untitled Illustration) (1919)

The artist’s family emigrated to Australia in 1920 and while en route to Perth she was frequently called “The Welsh Pixie.” Having a dislike for the name Rhona and thinking that a new name would go well with a new life, she changed her name to Pixie O. Harris. After arriving in Perth, she found temporary employment in an advertising agency colouring slides and drawing fashions. During her spare time, she continued to draw and took some drawings to local art galleries. The Perth Royal Art Society recognised her talent and allowed her to hang some of her drawings in the gallery.

After only six months in Perth, the family relocated to Maroubra, in Sydney, by which time the artist had amassed a large number of drawings. She took her drawings to the editor of the Sydney Mail magazine, produced by the Sydney Morning Herald, who paid forty pounds for thirty of the images.  Reportedly, a printer at the magazine saw the artist’s signature and mentioned, “You can’t have a name like that without an apostrophe after the O.”  The printer then added the apostrophe and Pixie O. Harris became Pixie O’Harris. While on a trip to Sydney she became friendly with a man whose father had contacts with people working at John Sands, a printing firm. The firm liked her drawings, hired her and she started producing advertisements. In order to improve her artistic skill, her employers decided to send her to the Julian Ashton Art School, paying her tuition. During this time she was also producing book plates.

After a year at this job, O’Harris quit and joined her father at his studio. As she was now well known, she freelanced for various magazines including The Triad, Green Room and The Bulletin. She also drew illustrations for theatre programs, comics for joke blocks and continued to accept commissions for advertisements.

Pixie O'Harris - Advertisement for OK Pure Jam (1923)

Pixie O’Harris – Advertisement for OK Pure Jam (1923)

Her first assignment to illustrate a book was Cinderella’s Party by Maud Renner, published by Rigby in 1922 for which she was paid two guineas per image. Two years later she was asked to illustrate The Lost Emerald by Agnes Littlejohn.

Pixie O'Harris - Cinderella's Party (1922)

Pixie O’Harris – Cinderella’s Party (1922)

Her father’s death in 1924 had such an unsettling effect on the artist that she decided to leave the city and ended up in the Burragorang Valley. There the artist spent many days perfecting her skills at drawing flora and fauna.

Pixie O'Harris - Pixie O'Harris Story Book (1940)

Pixie O’Harris – Pixie O’Harris Story Book (1940)

Upon returning to Sydney, the editor of The Triad commissioned her to caricature well-known personalities which took up most of the year and became some of her most recognised work.

In 1925 the artist published The Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book which was a book of short stories and verses interspersed with illustrations which became one of her most popular books.

po'h fairy book

Pixie O’Harris – Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book (1925) (1)

Pixie O'Harris - Pixie O'Harris Fairy Book (1925) (2)

Pixie O’Harris – Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book (1925) (2)

After finishing her work on the book, she continued her freelance work at The Triad where she drew images for the children’s pages as well as an occasional cover. However, the artist believed this position lacked security and decided to become a fashion artist for the Horden Brothers Department Store. She developed a different drawing style at that job and it helped refine her drawing of adults.  Prior to this, a lot of her images featured children or toddlers so some of the adults ended up with a childlike appearance. She continued with this job for three years.  It was during this period that she met a wool buyer named Bruce Pratt and married in 1928, initially quitting her jobs to stay at home. She subsequently gave birth to three daughters.

During the Depression in Australia, she rented an office in the city and set up an art studio. Her sister, Pat, was employed as her errand girl and occasionally collaborated with her on contracts. The enterprise prospered and soon the artist was working for the Woman’s Weekly and New Nation magazines. All the while she was still doing fashion work for Horden Brothers. Also notable during this period were the several colour covers produced for Woman’s Budget magazine and the caricature-based drawings for their series “Pictures of the Near Great” published weekly.

Pixie O'Harris - Woman's Budget (Cover) (1933)

Pixie O’Harris – Woman’s Budget (Cover) (1933)

With all these commissions coming in, O’Harris’ artistic ability became a mainstay in the commercial arts. In 1934 she received another commission to illustrate her fourth book, Hundreds and Thousands by Ruth Bedford. She enjoyed this work and so started work on the book Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935), a story about two rock sprites. The book sold well and was reprinted four times.

Pixie O'Harris - Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (1)

Pixie O’Harris – Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (1)

Pixie O'Harris - Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (2)

Pixie O’Harris – Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (2)

The success of this book drew the attention of other publishers and she spent most of the next year drawing images for four other books, all coming out in 1936. There is scant information about O’Harris’ life after this point. There were only two books featuring her work in the period between 1938 and 1939. The most likely reason she was kept occupied editing for Humour magazine. While lying in the hospital ward during the birth of her third child in 1939, she came up with the idea of painting hospital walls with murals. The joy of decorating the walls of children’s wards, baby health centres and schools continued for forty years and must have created the largest body of public works in Australia with over forty institutes decorated.

In addition to painting murals—in the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children—four books illustrated by the artist were published in 1940. One of these books, The Pixie O’Harris Story Book, was also written. The Adventures of Poppy Treloar was published in 1941 and is significant in that it was a story specifically for girls. At this time there were few books for girls and with three daughters, the artist noticed this shortcoming and filled the gap with three Poppy Treloar books. A fourth book was added 22 years later when the publishers, Paul Hamlyn, decided to release the books in a box set. In 1943 she started another book series about a possum named Marmaduke. The first book was Marmaduke the Possum, with an additional two following. Marmaduke became a play in 1960; the producer was Julie Simpson who read the book as a child and was so entranced by it that she became determined to produce it as a play. Julie found O’Harris who agreed with her ideas. Within a few weeks the artist had written the whole play, designed the costumes, masks and the backdrops. The play ran for five weeks during the Christmas holiday period of 1960/61. She wrote a second play in 1979 called The Queen of Hearts, Paddy and The Moon Lady.

Pixie O'Harris - Marmaduke and Margaret (1953)

Pixie O’Harris – Marmaduke and Margaret (1953)

Another important book written by O’Harris was The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly. The book became very popular and was reprinted five times.

Pixie O'Harris - The Fairy Who Wouldn't Fly (Cover) (1945)

Pixie O’Harris – The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (Cover) (1945)

Pixie O'Harris - The Fairy Who Wouldn't Fly (1945)

Pixie O’Harris – The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (1945)

From 1950 through to 1970 she focused on her mural work as well as writing short stories, poems and then making the images to go with them for School Magazine. When not doing this work she took up oil painting and accumulated such a quantity that she was able to exhibit them yearly from 1964 onward. Her paintings depicted plants, flowers, fairies and other mythological beings.

A resurgence of interest in her work took place in the 1970s as three of her books were republished. This renewed interest led to Golden Books Publishing giving her contracts to write eight more books for them between 1978 and 1982. The books were cheaply produced so do not show her work to a very high quality, though the consumers did not care and large numbers were nonetheless sold. During the 1980s, two biographies were published and she also illustrated an edition of Wind in the Willows. 

Her final commission came in 1990. The book was Alice in Wonderland, also known as The Pixie Alice, published by The Carroll Foundation. It was part of the 125th anniversary of the publishing of the original Macmillan publication. The book itself was designed to be a colouring book. The complete text to the original story was there with fourteen simply-drawn black and white illustrations.

Pixie O'Harris - Alice in Wonderland (Cover) (1990)

Pixie O’Harris – Alice in Wonderland (Cover) (1990)

Pixie O'Harris - Alice in Wonderland (1990)

Pixie O’Harris – Alice in Wonderland (1990)

A year later in 1991 Pixie O’Harris passed away. In 1994 the Children’s Publishing Committee of the Australian Publishers’ Association (APA) established the Pixie O’Harris Award. It is awarded for distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children’s books. The guidelines state that:

To be eligible, publishers, editors, booksellers and publicists need to have worked consistently in children’s literature, demonstrated a commitment beyond the call of duty and developed a reputation for their contribution to the industry. -APA

In recognition for her work in the arts as well as the painting of murals for children, O’Harris received several awards, a Coronation Medal, a Jubilee Medal and became a Member of the British Empire in 1976. She was made a Patron of The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in 1977.

Pixie O'Harris - The Little Round House (1939)

Pixie O’Harris – The Little Round House (1939)

The house that Beckons

Pixie O’Harris – The House that Beckons (1940)

Eloise Wilkin: Illustrator of Little Golden Books

Most of us would have childhood memories of reading books illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Wilkin started writing Little Golden Books in the 1940s and many of her books are still being re-released today. The illustrations of Eloise Wilkin depict an idyllic environment that is free of dangers and is inhabited by chubby, cherub-faced toddlers and children. These children are mainly of Caucasian appearance, though occasionally other ethnicities do appear. Curiously most children drawn by Wilkin have a closed mouth smile or contemplative expression—you almost never see their teeth. I suppose this was because Wilkin was not comfortable or did not believe she could convincingly draw other expressions. Regardless, I don’t think this lack of varied expression reduced the quality of her images. All of her images are either watercolors or coloured pencil drawings.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book A Child's Garden of Verses 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book A Child’s Garden of Verses (1957)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1) 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1957) (1)

Eloise Margaret Wilkin was born (as Eloise Margaret Burns, March 30, 1904–October 4, 1987) in Rochester, NY. She completed an illustration course at the Rochester Institute of Technology and upon graduation, started up an art studio with her friend Joan Esley. However the art studio was unsuccessful and she struggled to find work in Rochester so she moved to New York City. Here Eloise did freelance work for many publishing companies and her first published book was The Shining Hour (1927) for the Century Co. Additionally, Wilkin also illustrated paper dolls for the businesses Playtime House, Jaymar and Samuel Gabriel and Sons.

Eloise Wilkin - Prayers for Children (Cover) 1952

Eloise Wilkin – Prayers for Children (Cover) (1952)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book My Goodnight Book 1981

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book My Goodnight Book (1981)

Eloise married Sidney Wilkin in 1935 and reduced the amount of illustrating work she did for the next nine years in order to raise their four children.  She signed a contract with Simon & Schuster in 1944 and went on to illustrate about fifty Little Golden Books. During this time she would use family, relations and neighbours as models for her images. The landscapes that appeared in Eloise’s illustrations were also real and drawn from the areas she lived or holidayed.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (2) 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1957) (2)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (3) 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1957) (3)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Birds 1958 (1)

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Birds (1958) (1)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Birds 1958 (2)

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Birds (1958) (2)

Eloise Wilkin started designing dolls in 1961. Her first doll was was the Baby Dear doll produced by Vogue Dolls. Inc. which came in two sizes, 12 and 18 inches.

Image of "Baby Dear" doll created by Eloise Wilkin

Image of “Baby Dear” doll created by Eloise Wilkin

Eloise went on to create six other dolls.

Image of seven dolls all created by Eloise Wilkin

Image of seven dolls all created by Eloise Wilkin

The Baby Dear doll was released concurrently with the book Baby Dear, published by Little Golden Books, and appears in the book as the little girl’s doll. Another interesting thing about the Baby Dear book is that it was written by Esther Wilkin, Eloise’s sister. Additionally her daughter was the model for the mother and her grandson the model for the baby.

Eloise Wilkin - Baby Dear (Cover) 1962

Eloise Wilkin – Baby Dear (Cover) (1962)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Baby Dear 1962

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Baby Dear (1962)

In addition to books Eloise’s images also appeared on calendars, puzzles, the covers of Little Golden Records, china plates, ads, cards and in Child’s Life, Story Parade and Golden Magazine.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book We Like Kindergarten 1965

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book We Like Kindergarten (1965)

Eloise Wilkin - My Kitten (Cover) 1954

Eloise Wilkin – My Kitten (Cover) (1954)

Eloise Wilkin - Songs of Praise (Cover) 1970

Eloise Wilkin – Songs of Praise (Cover) (1970)

Eloise continued to illustrate and design dolls right up until her death, from cancer in 1987.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Prayers for Children 1952

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Prayers for Children (1952)

An extensive bibliography of Eloise Wilkin books can be found at the Loganberry Books website

To listen to a three-part interview with one of Eloise Wilkin’s daughters, Deborah Wilkin Springett go to the triviumpursuit website. The webpage also says you can order her biography about her mother, The Golden Years of Eloise Wilkin, however this page is eight years old, at this time, so it may no longer be available.

Ernest Nister: Maker of Movable Books

Researching Ernest Nister has been a difficult pursuit as no business or personal archives are known. Additionally, as he appears to be of little interest today there are few researchers of Ernest Nister and the papers or text books they publish are difficult to acquire. What follows is a brief description of Nister and his publishing company that I was able to piece together from the few sources that are readily available.

Ernest Nister (1842–1906) was a publisher born in Darmstadt, Germany. Ernest spent his school days studying business. However what he did from then until 1877, I have been unable to determine. In 1877 Ernest acquired a small lithographic workshop in Nuremberg and set about modernising it. Most of the printing was done in chromolithography and the number of products the business produced included annuals, storybooks, toy books, poetry and religious stories, as well as calendars, greeting cards, embossed pictures and games. As these items are so ephemeral—calendars are normally disposed of at the end of each year—few examples exist today. However, I shall show some calendars and postcards I have found on the Internet.

(Illustrator Unknown) - Calender (1889)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Calendar (1889)

(Illustrator Unknown) - Postcard (c1880)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Postcard (c1880) (1)

(Illustrator Unknown) - Postcard (c1880)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Postcard (c1880) (2)

Nister’s printing business also did work for other publishers like Castell, Farran, Griffith, Okeden and Routledge. Because of these contacts, Nister became a publisher in his own right in 1888 when he opened offices and design studios in London. Nister hired Robert Ellice Mack as director who was responsible for finding authors and illustrators as well as compiling and editing the books before sending them to Nuremburg for printing. Nister did very little of the creative work. Instead, he would organise and direct the workers, manage the business and supervise the printing process with the exception of wood engraving which was supervised by a co-worker named C. Priess. Distribution of the books in America was done by E.P. Dutton.

(Illustrator Unknown) - Peeps Into Fairyland (Cover) (1895)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Peeps Into Fairyland (Cover) (1895)

(Illustrator Unknown) - A Wave Coming from the book Cosy Corner (1892)

(Illustrator Unknown) – A Wave Coming, from the book Cosy Corner (1892)

John Lawson - Little Pussy, from the book Childhood Valley (1889)

John Lawson – Little Pussy, from the book Childhood Valley (1889)

Ernest Nister is remembered most for his embossed, panoramic and movable books. Embossed books were an early speciality for Nister. From these embossed books Nister developed the pop-up book whereby the embossed figures were die-cut then mounted within a three dimensional framework. The figures were then connected to the opposing page, by paper or fabric guides, so that when the page is opened the figures rise from the page. Nister was not the first person to create pop-up books, however, he was the first to create automatic pop-up books. Prior to Nister’s invention, pop-up scenes had to be manually manoeuvred upright by the reader. Displayed below you will see two differing types of Nister’s pop-up book. The first two are three-dimensional scenes set within a frame that are connected to the opposing page. The third is frameless and is created by standing the book upright and lowering the page onto the table making the characters appear as though they are standing on a stage.

(Illustrator Unknown) - The Procession of Nursery Rhymes from the book Peeps into Fairyland (1895)

(Illustrator Unknown) – The Procession of Nursery Rhymes, from the book Peeps into Fairyland (1895)

(Illustrator Unknown) - The Little Pet from the book Little Pets (1900)

(Illustrator Unknown) – The Little Pet, from the book Little Pets (1900)

E. Stuart Hardy - Untitled illustration from the book Land of Long Ago (1890)

E. Stuart Hardy – Untitled illustration from the book Land of Long Ago (1890)

Another of Nister’s inventions is the dissolving picture which works like a venetian blind. The picture is divided into five parts and when the tab at the bottom of the picture is pulled another picture slides from underneath and covers the original.

(Illustrator Unknown) - Untitled illustration from the book Playtime Surprises (1901)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Untitled illustration from the book Playtime Surprises (1901) (1)

(Illustrator Unknown) - Untitled illustration from the book Playtime Surprises (1901)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Untitled illustration from the book Playtime Surprises (1901) (2)

(Illustrator Unknown) - Untitled illustration from the book Playtime Surprises (1901)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Untitled illustration from the book Playtime Surprises (1901) (3)

The dissolving effect can also work with a sliding door type mechanism.

(Illustrator Unknown) - Untitled illustration from the book What a Surprise (1906)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Untitled illustration from the book What a Surprise (1906) (1)

(Illustrator Unknown) - Untitled illustration from the book What a Surprise (1906)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Untitled illustration from the book What a Surprise (1906)(2)

(Illustrator Unknown) - Untitled illustration from the book What a Surprise (1906)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Untitled illustration from the book What a Surprise (1906) (3)

The third type of movable book Nister created was the revolving picture. The mechanism consisted of two disks that covered each other and were divided into six segments. Those segments in turn fit together in a star formation. When a tab in the frame was pulled, one disk slid over the other to reveal a new picture.

Ellen J. Andrews - Untitled illustration from the book In Wonderland (1895)

Ellen J. Andrews – Untitled illustration from the book In Wonderland (1895) (1)

Ellen J. Andrews - Untitled illustration from the book In Wonderland (1895)

Ellen J. Andrews – Untitled illustration from the book In Wonderland (1895) (2)

Ellen J. Andrews - Untitled illustration from the book In Wonderland (1895)

Ellen J. Andrews – Untitled illustration from the book In Wonderland (1895) (3)

As you would have noticed from the image descriptions there is a problem with finding the identity of illustrators for Nister’s images. The illustrator is largely unknown as Nister did not consider it important to leave the signature in the picture so it was either cropped out during editing or colored over during printing. Nister also constantly reused images and even added or deleted features to the original images. The date is also almost always omitted and if it had not been for researchers who are willing to go through library catalogues and find the earliest release of the books, it would remain unknown.

Lizzie Lawson - Under the Mistletoe from the book Bobby Robin - (Unknown Date)

Lizzie Lawson – Under the Mistletoe, from the book Bobby Robin – (Unknown Date)

John Lawson - Red Riding Hood from the book There Was Once (1888)

John Lawson – Red Riding Hood, from the book There Was Once (1888)

(Illustrator Unknown) – Land of Long Ago (Cover) (1890)

(Illustrator Unknown) - What a Surprise (Cover) (1906)

(Illustrator Unknown) – What a Surprise (Cover) (1906)

Nister died in 1906 and left the publishing business to his son Ernest Nister Jr. At this time the business had about 600 employees and could produce prints using the three-color, photoengraving, wood engraving, heliogravure, collotype, copperplate, halftone engraving, blind embossing and chromolithography printing processes. The business would not last more than ten years. As World War I started and an export ban was placed on Germany the Ernest Nister Publishing Company was one of the many businesses that collapsed as a result.

There are many videos on YouTube showing examples of Ernest Nister Books.
If anyone wants to research further you will need this source list as they are hard to find and contain so many more details. I used many of these in putting together this article.

The Mother of Australian Fairies: Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888–1960) was an illustrator born in Melbourne, Australia. She was a self-taught artist, as her parents believed that art training would ruin her individual style. She attended the Presbyterian College of East Melbourne and it was there that her artistic pursuits started as she spent her lessons drawing in the margins of her books.

Ida Rentoul - Sketch from her school book (Date Unknown)

Ida Rentoul – Sketch from her school book (Date Unknown)

Ida had her first illustration printed at the age of thirteen when a friend submitted it to an unknown English magazine and they reproduced it. Her first professional and recognised appearance came in 1903, at age fifteen, when she illustrated ‘The Fairies of Fern Gully’ for New Idea Magazine.

Ida Rentoul - The Fairies of Fern Gully (1903)

Ida Rentoul – The Fairies of Fern Gully (1903)

The story was so well-liked that she was asked to make a set of six Christmas cards called “Austral Greetings.”

Ida Rentoul - Morning Callers (1903)

Ida Rentoul – Morning Callers (1903)

The next year Ida and her sister, Annie Rentoul made their first book together, Molly’s Bunyip (1904).

Ida Rentoul - Molly's Bunyip (1904)

Ida Rentoul – Molly’s Bunyip (1904)

Molly’s Bunyip was a remarkable book because, for only the second time (the first being Dot and the Kangaroo), Australian children could see magic happening in the Australian bush rather than a European setting which was typical at the time. The financial success of this book encouraged the sisters to write other stories with New Australian Fairy Tales released the same year and the book Molly’s Staircase in 1906.

In 1907 Ida’s illustrations were becoming so popular that she was being asked by other magazines and authors to illustrate for them. The J.C. Williamson theatrical firm asked Ida to start illustrating the booklets that accompanied their pantomimes. Additionally Ida and Annie released two more books, Molly’s Adventures (1907) and Lady of the Blue Beads (1908)

Ida Rentoul - Yeave-ho My Land-Lubbers from the book Lady of the Blue Beads (1908)

Ida Rentoul – Yeave-ho My Land-Lubbers from the book Lady of the Blue Beads (1908)

In 1907 Ida took part in the Woman’s Exhibition, celebrating the achievement of women. In addition to having new artworks displayed, she released a song book Australian Songs for Young and Old with lyrics by Annie Rentoul and music composed by Georgette Peterson. The three women published two more books, Bush Songs of Australia for Young and Old in 1910 and More Australian Songs for Young and Old in 1913. These song books quickly became classics. That same year, a working friendship with author Tarella Quin was started with the production of Gum Tree Brownie and other Faerie Folk of the Never Never. Ida and Tarella also produced Before the Lamps are Lit (1911), Chimney Town (1934) and The Other Side of Nowhere (1934).

In 1909, her productivity dropped temporarily probably due to her marriage to Grenbury Outhwaite in December 1909 with marriage preparations and other social engagements taking up a lot of time. Over the next ten years, her four children were born. It was during this period that she began to master watercolour painting; prior to 1909 most illustrations had been done in pen and ink. All these years of practice lead to the production of Elves and Fairies (1916), her defining work.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Road to Fairyland from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Road to Fairyland from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Autumn Fairy from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Autumn Fairy from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Elves and Fairies was published by Lothian in 1916 and was an amazing book for its time. Few art books with color plates had been printed and this was one of the first. It was large as well at a length of 38 cm with fifteen color plates and thirty black-and-white illustrations.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - The Sea Fairies from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – The Sea Fairies from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - The Little Witch from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – The Little Witch from the book Elves and Fairies (1916)

A publication like this was largely possible because of Grenbury’s marketing and commercial talents, Grenbury Outhwaite also underwrote the production of the art book. Concurrently with the publication of Elves and Fairies, Ida’s first solo exhibition was held. At four guineas, Elves and Fairies was so expensive that a smaller and significantly cheaper edition was printed in 1919 making the book more accessible to children, the target audience.

Ida’s fame was not restricted to Australia. By 1920 Europe had learned about her illustrations and her first exhibitions, organised largely by Grenbury Outhwaite, in London and Paris were held. These shows caught the attention of the publishers A&C Black and from then onwards all her European books were produced by A&C Black.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - A Fairy Frock from the book The Enchanted Forest (1921)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – A Fairy Frock from the book The Enchanted Forest (1921)

 Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Anne Plays the Pipes (1921)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Anne Plays the Pipes from the book The Enchanted Forest (1921)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Anne Rides on the Heavenly River from the book The Enchanted Forest (1921)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Anne Rides on the Heavenly River from the book The Enchanted Forest (1921)

Ida’s career was then at its peak and though she still did the occasional illustration for magazines, newspapers and advertisers, most of her income was coming from exhibitions. At least one exhibition of Ida’s work was held each year from 1916–1924. Ida was still illustrating books, in collaboration with Annie and Grenbury, with five books released between 1921 and 1928—the most popular being The Enchanted Forest (1921) and The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922). Ida produced another huge art book in 1926 named Fairyland of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.  Fairyland was priced at five guineas so was truly for collectors only; it was also her only book to be released in America.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - I am Kexy Friend to Fairies from the book The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – I am Kexy Friend to Fairies from the book The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Then the Fairies Came from the book The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Then the Fairies Came from the book The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922)

Ida’s popularity began to decline in the 1930s; by this time she was forty-two years old and had been illustrating for over twenty years. Part of the reason for the decline was a lack of variety in her work as well as a change in tastes as fairy books were replaced by animal books. In response to this change, Ida began to produce books with less emphasis on fairies and more on animal characters. The change was first noticeable in the book Blossom: A Fairy Story where one of the main characters was a magical cat and then in the ‘Benjamin Bear’ comic strip which ran in the Weekly Times from 1933–1939, featuring almost no humans.

 Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - They felt themselves and Samuel Rise Up, Up, Up from the book Blossom: A Fairy Story (1928)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – They felt themselves and Samuel Rise Up, Up, Up from the book Blossom: A Fairy Story (1928)

 Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Always they Said Goodbye at the Little Green Door from the book Blossom: a Fairy Story (1928)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Always they Said Goodbye at the Little Green Door from the book Blossom: a Fairy Story (1928)

Ida continued to illustrate books for Annie, Grenbury and other authors. However these were rather minor books. Of these, her fairy illustrations made an appearance in A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933). Six Pence to Spend would be the last book Ida wrote herself and in 1938 Grenbury Outhwaite passed away ending their thirty years of collaboration.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Wild Geranium from the book A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Wild Geranium from the book A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Thorn Bush from the book A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Thorn Bush from the book A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933)

During the war years she supplemented her income by working in the Censorship Department where she read POW and other detainee mail. Her last illustrating job was in 1958 illustrating Legends of the Outback by Phyllis M. Power. At the end of her career she had produced over 600 individual illustrations.

 Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Prue and the Possum from the book Legends of the Outback (1958)

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite – Prue and the Possum from the book Legends of the Outback (1958)

As this is only a brief description of Ida’s illustrating work, there is a more complete bibliography here.

Additionally, at The Collecting Bug website you will find a large library of images showcasing the illustrations of Outhwaite and information about these works.

Pigtails’ 5th Anniversary: Two Great American Illustrators

Looking back at Pigtails in Paint’s history, it really is remarkable that we should be here now. There were so many things that could have gone wrong and, thanks to a number of guardian angels, we have been able to persevere. But apart from all that, the most remarkable quirk of fate was the partnership between Pip and me. Remove one of us from the equation and, almost certainly, there would be no Pigtails today. I never intended to run a website like this and if Pip had not invited me to join him, I probably never would have. And if I had not come along when I did, the site may never have developed its chorus of contributors—both visible and invisible. Even though Pip is officially gone, I must assure our readers that he keeps an ever vigilant eye on his baby and his influence will continue to be felt for a long time. Now for the present: I would like to thank Christian for his meticulous work as Editor and the multitude of others for their leads, materials, research, feedback, translating services and technical services that have kept things going.

On that note, I would like to present two images and stories by arguably the United States’ best child illustrators: Elizabeth Shippen Green and Jessie Willcox Smith. One day, both of these artists will get the full coverage they deserve but, for now, I would like to offer this tantalizing sample. There is a rare book featuring illustrations by these two women called The Book of the Child (1903) with text written by Mabel Humphrey and published by the Frederick A. Stokes Company. Because the book does not cover the more popular children’s tales, it is virtually unknown and has not received the recognition it deserves. It also distinguishes itself by having the stories inspired by the illustrations instead of the other way around. When I saw the title of the first story, it was a signal to me that this book should be the cornerstone of this anniversary post.

Elizabeth Shippen Green - A Tale of a Pigtail (1903)

Elizabeth Shippen Green – A Tale of a Pigtail (1903)

A Tale of a Pigtail

 Snip, snip, snip, squeaked the shears; down to the floor slipped a thick braid of soft brown hair; and Mary gave a startled gasp as she looked down at it. A sob rose in her throat as she glanced at herself in the mirror.
“I don’t care,” she sniffed, which really meant that she cared very much; “now the boys can’t call me ‘pigtail’ and ‘cowstail’, cause I haven’t any tail at all.”
“Hey, Jimmy!” she called from the window, “who’s a pigtail now?” and shook her short locks savagely.
The answer came quick and clear, “Bobtail! Bobtail! Bob—”; but the rest of the word was lost in the bang of the window and a burst of tears.
At that moment Auntie Brown came hurrying into the room, and, seeing the poor shorn lamb sobbing her small heart out gathered her lovingly into comfortable arms.
“Never mind, Sweetie.” she cooed soothingly. “Auntie won’t scold about the hair, dear heart”, (this, as the small hands clutched wildly at the docked head), “though she is sorry. Jimmy shan’t ever call you names again,” and very gently Auntie coaxed the small visitor back into smiles.
All day long Mary lingered near her aunt, however. The grey branches beckoned gaily to her from the golden sunlight, and the bright flowers nodded encouragingly; but these held no temptation for her while the boys were outside and a possible “Bobtail” rang in her ears.
Searching for something with which to amuse herself she came at last upon Uncle’s set of beautiful chessmen and soon had a small ivory family in the midst of dinners, dances and many gaieties. In her excitement Mary forgot that the chessmen were forbidden to her small fingers—forgot, too, that the books she had used for the houses were Uncle’s choicest. Everything in fact was lost in the “fun” she was having.
“Come on, Mary,” called Jimmy, peering through the long window. “Come play horse,” but Mary shook her head.
“Lemme play with you, then.”
The head shook harder than before, and Jimmy turned away cross and hurt. If Mary only couldn’t play with the chessmen, perhaps she might come out and play with him. “Couldn’t,” and suddenly remembering his father’s command, the little boy rushed eagerly off to find him, a plan—rather selfish, I fear, stirring busily in his small brain.
A few moments later Jessie was startled by her Uncle’s voice stern and cold. “Mary!” was all it said, but it was enough; she remembered now.
“Oh, Uncle Jim,” she wailed, “I won’t ever do it again, but my hair—” she faltered. “I quite forgot!”
There was no doubting the earnest little face upturned to him, and remembering the sorry tale of woes Auntie had told him not long before, Uncle Jim turned away with a smile, only telling Mary to put the chessmen away carefully.
Having done so, Mary, with flashing eyes, marched out on the piazza, and, spying the object of her search, her wrath took shape.
Jimmy Brown!” and Mary’s voice trembled with rage. “You called me pigtail, which I wasn’t, an’a cowstail, which I wasn’t. Then when I wouldn’t come out to an’ play, you ‘membered about the chessmen, an’ told! An’ that’s a—telltale!”
With a break in the angry voice Mary turned to go; but at a bound Jimmy was at her side. “I’m drefful sorry, Mary,” he began—
“Nem mind, Jimmy,” said the little girl. “So am I. Let’s play horse.”

Some of you may note that Humphreys made a continuity error in mentioning the name “Jessie” instead of “Mary”. I believe it was her intent to use the illustrators’ names in the stories and she got a little mixed up. An interesting coincidence is that this book should arrive at my doorstep only one day after publishing the ‘Chess’ post. The next story—the last in the book—may seem out of place in February but I do find myself humming Christmas carols at all times of the year.

Jessie Willcox Smith - A Real Santa Claus (1903)

Jessie Willcox Smith – A Real Santa Claus (1903)

A Real Santa Claus

 “O dear!” sighed Elizabeth. “I don’t b’lieve Sandy Claus’ll ever come.”
She pressed her round little nose against the cold window pane and peered up and down the street, as if she half expected to see Mr. Santa himself under the gas lamps.
Very quietly she had crept into the dark drawing-room this Christmas eve, for perhaps—one of those exciting chances it was!—perhaps Nursey would’nt find her. And then? Well, then she would sit up and see Santa Claus come down the chimney.
Nursey did find her, however, and very soon Elizabeth was snug in bed, though not by any means asleep. As soon as she was alone in the dark, up popped her head like a lively”Jack-in-the-box,” the little white-clad shoulders following. And Elizabeth waited.
It was very still in the dark room, and once or twice the drowsy eyelids drooped; but she propped them up with two chubby fingers and kept the brown eyes turned anxiously toward the fireplace.
Could he crawl down it, she wondered. He was fat and had a pack, a great large one with dolls, an’ candie, an’ ev’thing. Yes, an’ kittens! He might break the dollies if he should squeeze. S’posen he couldn’t
Suddenly Elizabeth’s heart gave a quick thump as the door opened softly, letting in enough light to show a grey head peeping through the crack. The head had a beard, too, just like the pictures, and the broad shoulders wore a great coat white with snow.
“Creak,” said the door, while it opened wide enough to let all of the large figure slip into the room.
At the sound, Santa Claus—for it must be he thought Elizabeth—jumped, as she did when Mother caught her taking lumps of sugar, and looked cautiously around to see if she had heard. All was quiet, however, and after stopping an instant to make sure she had not wakened, he stole quietly over to the chimney-place, carrying in each hand a small stocking, stuffed to the toe and bulging in the queerest of shapes. These he hung in front of the chimney; then tiptoed out into the hall again.
As he closed the door Elizabeth heard him whisper: “she didn’t wake,” and he called her mama “Lil” and kissed her.
“Hm,” she mused drowsily, “I knowed he couldn’t get down that little chimney. Guess he didn’t see I was awake; must have lef’ his pack an’ cap downstairs, I fink.” The sleepy eyes closed, and Elizabeth drifted softly away into Dreamland.
The next morning early, a bright voice chirped: “Merry Christmas, Mudder. I saw Sandy Claus! Bolstered up in Mother’s bed she told her story, between squeals of delight at the treasures Santa had left.
At breakfast she found a new grandfather, arrived the night before from his home in San Francisco, and such fun as they had all day together. At dinner Grandfather carved the great turkey, and gave her both fat “drumsticks” and the wish-bone. In the afternoon they had a sleighride, and Elizabeth “drove” the horses with the jingling sleighbells, almost by herself.
In the evening they made merry over the twinkling Christmas tree, and before bed-time she told Grandfather “she loved him, an’ he looked jes’ like her Sandy Claus.” When he answered that he “wondered” if little owls could see in the dark, his eyes twinkled so merrily, like the pictures again, the she almost thought he must be Santa Claus.
And sometimes when Christmas comes around, bringing her many beautiful gifts, she thinks so still.