Random Images: Ilona Granet

With ongoing new technology, there is always a learning curve in adopting it. In my case, I have been binging podcasts and catching up on over a decade of material that I have not had time to keep apprised of.

Ilona Granet is an example of an artist who isn’t really famous but should be. A set of unfortunate circumstances seems to have conspired against her. One of those circumstances is the advent of digital technology in the production of signs. Granet got her start by making signs which were always hand-made and contracted out individually by businesses and government agencies. In that vein, this artist—objecting to the prevalence of misogyny in public places in New York City—actually got permission to post signs about the city with various warnings for men to curb their libidos in public. They were made to resemble government signs but with a startlingly different content. One of her later productions was a series of signs depicting Little Red Riding Hood. This character is well-known as a representation of innocent girlhood and the menace of adult sexuality which is in line with Granet’s general theme but unusually idyllic for the artist. As expected, it is a kind of dream of a world where girls can frolic freely without harassment.

Ilona Granet – Wander and Giggle (date unknown)

Due to the kind of foliage depicted and the text underneath the English (Katakana), this sign may have been for a Japanese venue.

Decoder Ring (podcast featuring Ilona Granet)

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 4

Jana Brike – The Last Dancer in the World

This is the fourth post in the Sublimated Sexuality series. You can view the first three posts in this series here, here and here. Let’s get started.

12) Body horror – This is another fairly broad category that covers a lot of these images, and as with several of the categories, there is a good deal of overlap with some of the other categories (for example, the monstrosity, violence and general weirdness categories). At any rate, this category covers physical deformities and mutations, sickness and disease, bruises and wounds, and what I would deem “frankensteined” people and animals—that is, beings who are something other than a full human or a full animal. Sometimes they are animal-human hybrids; other times they are biomechanical monstrosities.

Ana Bagayan – The Experiment

Ana Bagayan (Official Site)

Jackie Skrzynski – Scratch (2003)

Jackie Skrzynski (Official Site)

Jana Brike – Self Portrait with Erected Tail

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown) (1)

Cornelia Renz – A Girl Without Hands (2008)

Cornelia Renz (Official Site)

Here there is some overlap with the twins category. Yang Jing’s work often incorporates dolls, which we’ll get to in yet another category.

Yang Jing – We Did Nothing

Ravenel International Art Group: Yang Jing

The following image is perhaps the quintessential example of the thesis of this blog series. The implication in Nicoletta Ceccoli’s Dulcis Agata (Latin for Sweet Agatha) depends partly on how you read this sort of art overall. It also references the next category to be addressed in this post, the presence of food, particularly sweet treats, in these images. Ceccoli often uses cakes and candies in her images to symbolizes childhood, especially girlhood, but there is frequently a sinister undertone to these images, and that is the case here. The title references St. Agatha of Sicily, a girl from a wealthy family who, at age fifteen, refused the sexual advances of a lowborn Roman prefect and was subsequently arrested, tortured and eventually murdered. Among the punishments she supposedly enduring was the cutting off of her breasts.

Here Agatha is presented as a young girl who offers either some sort of dessert drenched in strawberry or cherry sauce, or her own severed breasts. If it is the latter, one can read it in at least two ways. The first is as a feminist allegory in which women are expected to look ever younger for men, and thus a young girl might sever her own breasts to remain child-like in presentation. The second reading is actually not far from the first, and it is that culture desexualizes young girls to keep them pure and holy, by violence if necessary.

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Dulcis Agata

Nicoletta Ceccoli (Official Site)

Cristina Vergano – Escorial, Madrid, September 1705

Cristina Vergano (Official Site)

13) The presence of food, especially sweets – Food is sometimes associated with sex, and no food more so than fruit and candy, both of which are sweet. (Refer to my Cherry Ripe! post for some insight into at least one fruit that commonly symbolizes sex or sexual development.) Sweets are also associated with children, which makes the symbolism in these images especially potent. Add in a healthy dose of satire and you have the makings of a clever commentary on the conflicted view of the young girl in modern society.

Hiroyuki Mano – The cake is a lie

DeviantArt: DensenManiya

Ceccoli’s girls generally exist in some sort of dark Candyland.

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Barbara

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Consumed by You

Scott G. Brooks – Food Chain (2009)

Scott G Brooks Studios (Official Site)

Rene Lynch – Icons – Honey Dipper (Bee Queen) (2006)

Rene Lynch (Official Site)

Mmm, tasty black soup.

Rieko Sakurai – (Title Unknown)

Artnet: Rieko Sakurai


James Jean – Recess – Horse

James Jean (Official Site)

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown) (2)

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown) (3)

14) Masks, especially animal masks – Masks are another recurring emblem in this sort of art. Much can be said about masks in art just in general, but with respect to kids, one immediately thinks of Halloween, which is associated with devils and darkness too, and that of course intersects with one of the persistent themes in these images: horror of one sort or another. If we think in terms of sublimating childhood sexuality, these images are not too dissimilar from the human-animal hybrid pieces, only the artists are perhaps more aware of the sublimation and are acknowledging it. Thus, the masks are in essence a reflection of both the artist’s neuroses with regard to children and a sly acknowledgment that there really are human children behind the false faces being offered to the viewer.

Caleb Weintraub – Ashes Ashes Splashes Splashes

Caleb Weintraub (Official Site)

Jana Brike – The Last Dancer in the World

Here Red Riding Hood becomes the wolf. Yet another clever commentary on the nature of girlhood and how it is perceived.

Nicoletta Ceccoli – My Favorite Costume

Nicoletta Ceccoli – A Girl Hides Secrets

The Little Lowbrow Girl: Arwassa

I have been meaning to do this series for years, but after I “retired” from Pigtails and then returned, I had already forgotten about it. A recent conversation with Ron spurred my memory, however, and so I will do it now, starting with Yolanda Pérez Villanueva, a.k.a. Arwassa.

Before I get into Arwassa’s bio, I want to explain a bit about what lowbrow art is.  The lowbrow or pop surrealism movement began in California among the surfer and hot rod culture and was aimed squarely at that culture; it’s therefore considered a populist art movement, unlike movements such as abstract expressionism and the like, which are often regarded (correctly or incorrectly) as elitist. The art is characterized by the juxtaposition of “fine art” concepts or styles with kitsch, comics—especially underground comix—cartoons and other pop cultural ephemera, often in bizarre or humorous ways.  More recently, Japanese culture and anime-style art have made their way into the movement.  The founding father of lowbrow is usually considered to be Robert Williams, who facetiously adopted the title The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams for his first book of collected art, in response to the fact that at the time no major galleries or museums would display his art, considering it trashy and tasteless.  The name stuck and became associated with the movement as a whole, even though Williams himself has since rejected it in application to his own work.  (If Williams is the movement’s father, then its godfather is surely Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, famous for his Kustom Kulture art and especially for the character Rat Fink.)

In my twenty-something years of collecting and studying art, I tend to notice recurring themes and subjects in particular movements.  Though Williams himself was never much interested in the subject, one thing I’ve noticed about lowbrow art is the constant presence of little girls in it.  But here’s the thing: in these images little girls are almost always subverted or perverted in some way, especially by another prominent example of the movement, Mark Ryden.  My hunch is that this was/is a psycho-social reaction to an increasing cultural awareness of the sexuality of children, particularly the young girl.  In that respect, it is no accident that Ryden has become by far the most famous member of the lowbrow/pop surrealist subculture.  We’ll get to Ryden specifically in another post.  Meanwhile, let’s examine the work of Arwassa, who is not directly involved in the movement but whose style fits pretty comfortably within it.

Yolanda Pérez was born in Valencia, Spain in 1981 and took to art at a young age, eventually graduating from Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos de Valencia with a degree in Fine Arts. She specializes in vector art and illustration, as well as sculpture, and she occasionally writes stories in addition to creating visual art, with her main subject being the modern young girl in all her emotional, psychological and cultural complexity. I could say more here, but I’ll let her website explain:

She has always been fascinated by the creation of complex and conflicting characters. Her girls are a mix of little funny girls and dangerous tyrants governing in a liquid and dreamlike world. Nobody could guess if they are benevolent or evil beings. As if they were gods, seduce, play and devour all with impunity.

Actually, this sort of contradictory dichotomy pretty well describes most of the little girls depicted in the lowbrow or pop surrealist style. So what is behind this complex interpretation of the young girl? I see it as a modern incarnation of the virgin/whore dichotomy that was applied to women in Symbolist art.  Symbolism addressed a variety of topics relevant to western culture at the time; the ambivalent view of women and the growing awareness of their inner lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was only one of them, but it was an important one. Likewise, lowbrow art’s confrontation with the modern fear and ambivalence toward a burgeoning awareness of children’s, particularly young girls’, inner life including their proto-sexuality, is, I think, an overlooked but crucial dimension to understanding what is happening here. And as with the Symbolist movement, there tends to be recurring concepts or symbols both within the individual artist’s oeuvre and within the movement as a whole.

One of the most common elements in Arwassa’s work is water. Her girls, particularly the fiendish sharp-toothed ones, usually dwell in shallow murky waters. This is a metaphor for the unconscious mind and its nebulous and sometimes sinister motivations, or at least our perception of them as such. It’s no accident that Arwassa’s girls generally have their lower halves submerged while their upper halves merrily bob on the surface. We are firmly in Freudian territory here, or its pop equivalent.

In the second of these two images, her hair transforms into tentacles once they fall below the waterline and then reemerge to torment the little ship. The kraken as little girl: now that’s an original take on the sea monster! A thoroughly modern one. Medieval man, for example, barely registered the existence of little girls, much less envisioned them as any sort of threat to their masculinity or to the larger social order. Not so today. These tiny femme fatales are now outsized monsters to some. It is reasonable to ascertain that Arwassa’s work is merely a record of this state of affairs rather than an endorsement of it, but I could certainly be mistaken.

The jewelry, gold chains, blue teeth, facial “tattoos” and neck braces add a fetishistic element to these girls, giving them some edgy personality.

Arwassa – Glamour

Arwassa – On the Surface

These weird purple fruits pop up in several of Arwassa’s images. Fruit suggests fecundity (‘fruitfulness’ is an apt synonym), prosperity and, in the case of a certain biblical fruit—usually depicted as an apple but more likely intended to be a pomegranate—temptation.The fruits are growing in a swamp: what we have here is a peculiar sort of temptation fed by the dim, possibly dangerous waters of the deep unconscious. Not a bad way of summarizing modern society’s dread of children’s sexuality. Unwanted desires may arise from our unconscious minds despite our best efforts—that’s the horror of child nudity for many people, the fear that simply seeing a child’s naked body might trigger unwanted desires in them.

In the image below, the fruits literally take the place of the demonic little temptress’s still nonexistent breasts. The title is as much a reference to the girl as it is to the actual fruits. The butterfly “pins” in her hair, which could almost be real butterflies, root her even more in weird organicness. She is a phenomenon of nature, barely removed from her innate wildness and therefore dangerous to the status quo.

Arwassa – Fruit

Arwassa – Summertime

Of course, Arwassa does not shy away from showing us the young girl’s nude body, although she stops short of depicting their full femininity, choosing a doll-like smoothness instead. This is not uncommon. Indeed, in many cases the artist (consciously or unconsciously) plays into their own discomfort and depicts the children as actual dolls. Trevor Brown has done this. So has Mark Ryden, and many others. Arwassa could easily have gotten around this by simply giving these girls fish tails, but she chose to redefine the concept of mermaid here, which is telling. Her only real concession to the traditional mermaid then is that the girls are devoid of human genitalia.

Arwassa – Mermaids

Snails are an oft recurring symbol in Arwassa’s work. Snails can symbolize a number of things depending on the culture: carrying ones’s home on his back (essentially, being resourceful and content wherever one is), patience, bridging the physical and spiritual worlds (because snails can live on land or in water), even the overarching cycle of time and existence. The Christian tradition tends to view the humble snail as a symbol of sloth and laziness—unfairly so, since the snail is not slow by choice but rather by design. Many Medieval illuminated manuscripts mysteriously feature a knight doing battle with a snail. To me the snails in Arwassa’s art represent things of inherent disgustingness, and thus an attempt to tag little girls as inherently disgusting themselves. Notice how these girls treat snails like pets, as if they have a certain intimacy with creepiness. It’s pure projection, of course.

I believe too that these critters are intended to be envoys from the depths of ourselves, not so much bridging Heaven and Earth as bridging the conscious and unconscious realms. Snails are an unholy marriage between the sacred and the disturbing. That’s not far from how modern society views children on the whole. Kids are often fascinated by snails, many of them not even minding the slimy trail the snails leave behind on their skin as they move. I’ve been around enough children to know that they consistently disprove the traditionalist belief that there exists some fundamental rightness and wrongness about reality itself, and that kids are somehow plugged into it.

Arwassa – Snail Queen

Arwassa – Seashell

But snails aren’t the only animals that little girls react to in Arwassa’s art. Fish and other sea dwellers also appear with some regularity. Unlike snails, who are equally at home on land and in water, fish are strictly creatures of the deep. Fish of course have scads of meaning in Christian semiotics, but I doubt any of that is relevant here. Fish are not only sub-aqueous, they are also slippery, slimy and unpleasant to touch. In the following image our girl encounters an anglerfish, one of the most mysterious and deepest dwelling of all fish, and one of the most intimidating. What does it mean that the fish has a treasure chest in its mouth? I suspect the answer to that is rather too obvious. You don’t need to consider anything as crude as vagina dentata to see the dangers both metaphorical and real in “sexualizing” young girls—which is to say, recognizing them as sexual beings—but I guess it helps.

Arwassa – Treasure

Arwassa – The River Maiden

For our purposes here we are going to consider whales as honorary fish, though in reality they are mammals and must breathe air. Arwassa confuses the matter by depicting the whales as being the size of fish, or more likely, the girl as being whale-sized. More fetishistic jewelry and tattoos as well.

Arwassa – Whales

Fish may be friends to Arwassa’s girls, but they can also be lunch. Even pet goldfish may not be spared. Again, the wildness and unpredictability of the girls is in evidence. They may look cute and harmless, but their conscience isn’t fully formed yet. This illustration of Arwassa’s more than any other keys into Japanese manga and anime, where the little kawaii girl is queen . . . and occasional temptress.

Arwassa – Kawaii Love Fish

She kisses the serpent, which we know to be the animal that led to the Fall of Man, sealing their wedlock. But what if the serpent is simply a part of her? What if the devil that makes little girls do things they shouldn’t—like being too attractive to adults—is a mere toy girls play with sometimes without fully understanding what it is they’re playing with?

Arwassa – Married with the Snake

Rainbows are ordinarily symbols of peace, prosperity, progress and in the modern political context, sexual diversity. It gets processed into sweet treats for Arwassa’s water-loving girls. So in the end these little cat mask-wearing predators make mincemeat of modern values that seem absolute on their surface but begin to melt around the edges under the light of scrutiny. And under the tongues of the naive.

Arwassa – Juice

Arwassa – Popsicle

I especially like this next one. She is very Alice-like in her blue dress and long blonde hair. She could almost be standing in the pool of tears, devouring a cupcake that says “Eat Me.”

Arwassa – Cupcake

For Arwassa’s girls, rainbows, once gorged upon, can be vomited up again to add a little color to one’s surroundings. At first this girl appears to be an angel, but look closer. Her angel wings are borrowed. The problem with children is that they can easily be perceived the wrong way, especially in a provocative context or state (like being nude). We encounter that here at Pigtails quite regularly, don’t we?

Arwassa – (Title Unknown)

A day at the fair for these little girls is not what you’d think it be. The girls frolicking without  clothes in their own damp, dismal homes is one thing, but going to the fair? That’s a whole new threat level. Public nudity is not something most people can handle without being triggered, even when the nudies are just children. But not only are they naked, their choice of snacks reveal them to be wild carnivorous creatures: another goldfish (newly won) and raw meat. Even the girl feasting on a normal treat to be found at fairs, a caramel apple, she has stuck to the top of her head and sucking the sticky goo out of her own hair like some kind of monkey.

Arwassa – A Day at the Fair

Finally, in Arwassa’s take on Little Red Riding Hood, the child with the famous blood-hued fashion accessory, far from being afraid of the devious and hungry wolf, embraces it! I’ve seen several images, mostly humorous, where Red violently murders the wolf. I have never seen one where she was the wolf’s friend. That says much about girls in Arwassa’s world.

Arwassa – Little Red Riding Hood

Album Cover Art – Winter 2017 Edition

Well, we all somehow made it to the end of 2017 alive. In that time I’ve gathered up several album covers that I thought were worth sharing. Our first album up is a modern take on the Little Red Riding Hood myth. One of these days I will make a proper LRRH post because there is so much fantastic art surrounding this theme, but for now you’ll have to settle for this. This is the cover for Declan “Dec” Burke‘s album Destroy All Monsters. Burke is a veteran of prog rock, performing in the bands Darwin’s Radio (who took their name from a Greg Bear sci-fi novel) and Frost*. This album, Burke’s solo debut, features the more poppy side of prog music. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of late 80s pop, like Genesis and Peter Gabriel. The title, of course, is a reference to the classic Japanese kaiju film of the same name.

Artist Unknown – Dec Burke – Destroy All Monsters (cover) (2010)

This next cover is from an album by the female-led garage rock/punk act Demolition Doll Rods. The image should be familiar to everyone at this point in some form or fashion. It’s practically iconic at this point and is usually accompanied by some one-line joke like, “So that’s why I make less money than you.” Anyway, it was bound to crop up on some album someday, and so it did, appearing on the front of DDR’s 2006 release There Is a Difference.

Artist Unknown – Demolition Doll Rods – These Is a Difference (front cover) (2006)

Meanwhile, the back cover featured a small photo of three toddler-age children—two girls and a boy—in various states of undress, presumably representing the three band members.

Artist Unknown – Demolition Doll Rods – These Is a Difference (back cover) (2006)

Okay, so this next one is sort of cheating because it’s easy to use covers from child singers. I could fill several posts with those alone. But this one is exceptionally nice, I think. It’s the cover of the debut EP from 2016 America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal, called Perfectly Imperfect. Grace has a particularly striking face anyway, and then the addition of the colorful illustrated elements transposed over an elegant black & white photo of the young musician just make this cover stand out from the pack. Her new album, her first LP Just the Beginning, also has a beautiful cover, front and back, but I just really dig the artiness of this EP cover.

Photographer Unknown – Grace VanderWaal – Perfectly Imperfect (cover) (2016)

Next up is an album cover which features several of my favorite things for a cover: a fantasy element (an archaic dragon rendered in what appears to be sculpted leather or wood), a trippy, oddly colored photo of the band as viewed through a fish-eye lens, and, of course, a little girl. This is the cover for New Wave band Squeeze‘s Some Fantastic Place. I really wish I knew the story behind this cover. The little girl may be the daughter of or otherwise related to one of the band members, but who knows? All I know is it’s a really beautiful cover, and it’s a great album too!

Photographer Unknown -Squeeze – Some Fantastic Place (cover) (1993)

And the eponymous single from the album also features the same little girl, along with a second girl of about the same age.

Photographer Unknown -Squeeze – Some Fantastic Place (single cover) (1993)

And here is the cover for only release so far from Major Organ and the Adding Machine, a supergroup comprised of various members of a musical collective called Elephant 6. The album is self-titled and was released in 2001. Beyond that I know little about it.

Artist Unknown – Major Organ and the Adding Machine – Major Organ and the Adding Machine (cover) (2001)

This next is from a single release by Danish singer (sounds a bit like ‘Moo’), and the song is a cover of the Spice Girls tune Say You’ll Be There. Fittingly, MØ’s album art features a photo of five young girls dressed and performing as the Spice Girls.

Photographer Unknown – MØ – Say You’ll Be There (cover) (2014)

And here we have the cover for the dream pop group Beach House‘s album Thank Your Lucky Stars. The photo on the cover is of the band vocalist Victoria Legrand’s mother when she was a little girl and was taken in the 1950s. The girl is holding up a doll or figurine still in its packaging, which suggests the photo was either taken at Christmas or during the girl’s birthday. Whatever the case, it’s a charming photo.

Photographer Unknown – Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars (cover) (2015)

The cover photo on Cairo’s A History of Reasons is a bit too grainy, but I liked the concept enough to post it. I could find almost nothing on the web about this band other than they are a folk/indie group from Toronto.

Photographer Unknown – Cairo – A History of Reasons (cover) (2015)

Now we have what may be my favorite cover of the bunch, Olivia Chaney‘s The Longest River. Chaney is also a folk musician, albeit British this time, and seeing this photo just makes me melt. I assume this is a photo of a father and his daughter but I could not verify that. The graphic element which comprises the off-center frame around the photo is a representation of the Egyptian goddess Nut. (Compare against images on Google.) In addition to its wonderful cover image, the album has the added benefit of being quite good.

Photographer Unknown – Olivia Chaney – The Longest River (cover) (2015)

The artwork featured on this next album, which is The Getaway by Red Hot Chili Peppers, is a painting by Kevin Peterson. You really should take a look at Peterson’s website as there are tons of paintings of little girls, usually alongside animals of various sorts or against graffiti-covered walls. In fact, he really warrants a post of his own on Pigtails. Anyone want to volunteer?  The painting itself is called Coalition II, and Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis, in an interview on the Kevin and Bean show, explained why they chose it for the cover: “Normally we get a little more highbrow artsy, and this just felt extremely warm and human. Even though it’s animals, it felt human. And it’s also us. Chad is the bear, Josh is the girl, and Flea is the raccoon, and me as the funny little raven out front.”

Kevin Peterson – Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway (cover) (2016)

And here is the actual painting in full:

Kevin Peterson – Coalition II

Our penultimate album cover is for alt rock/alt country band Lambchop‘s album Nixon. The painting on the cover was done by Wayne White, a longtime friend of the band’s singer. White has done other artworks for Lambchop albums but this one is my favorite. It’s designed to resemble one of those old collectible postcards for particular US towns or cities.

Wayne White – Lambchop – Nixon (cover) (2000)

And last but certainly not least, our sole example from a non-Anglophone country is this cover for Gente da Gente, by Brazilian group Negritude Júnior. In a world that seems to be growing more and more hostile to the notion of racial diversity, I find this cover to be disarmingly sweet and lovely. I think the idea here is that, stripped of our personal and cultural pretenses, we’re all pretty much the same. I tried to find a super-high quality version of this image on the web but this was the best I could do. Perhaps someone out there might like to buy this album and do a high-pass scan of the cover? If not, this version isn’t too bad, I think.

Edit: A reader has shared a link in the comments section to a better version of this image. Rather than simply replace it, however, I am going to leave the original and add the new version, but as it is the better version, I’m placing it first. 🙂 I did find the version at the link to be a bit washed out though, so I pushed up the saturation and contrast levels a bit and removed the halftone enough to still maintain clarity. – Pip

Photographer Unknown – Negritude Júnior – Gente da Gente (cover) (1995) (1)

Photographer Unknown – Negritude Júnior – Gente da Gente (cover) (1995) (2)

And that concludes our album cover posts for this year. Happy holidays, everyone!



Little Red T-Shirt Design

Here’s a reminder that interesting on-topic art can appear even in the most unexpected places. My own t-shirt collection is starting to get old and ratty, so lately I have started perusing some online purveyors of t-shirts. And because I like to support independent artists, my favorite t-shirt shops are Design By Humans and Tee Public. These sites are searchable by subject, and on a whim I started searching for Little Red Riding Hood-related items, of which there were quite a few. But the most interesting one I found was this one by an artist who goes by mankeeboi on that site. I immediately noticed something quite eye-opening about this image: aside from the actual riding hood, the young girl appears to be nude, with her picnic basket strategically blocking her genitalia. Most of mankeeboi’s art is fairly cartoonish; this one was something of an exception to that.

Here is the actual image:

mankeeboi – Little Red (t-shirt design)

I’m half tempted to order this shirt for myself. It’s actually a pretty good design, I think.

Edit: this shirt (and everything else at the site) is currently dropped in price from $20 to $14, so if you want to buy this or any other shirt from Tee Public, now is the time! This sale certainly won’t last forever. – Pip


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.

A Fairy Tale Subverted: Victoria Ying’s ‘Il Lupo’

One thing I love is stories, illustrations, films or what have you where the paradigm of the little girl in distress is turned on its head. These can be taken as feminist parables, or simply as a recognition of the fact that human beings often do not conform to expectations. Ying’s Il Lupo offers up a complete subversion of the familiar ‘little girl lost in the woods’ trope, and it does so in a rather surprising way. I am posting the first two pages here; to read the rest of it (it’s only ten pages long and a quick read), you must go here. Don’t miss this one—I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, and Ying really deserves the traffic at her site. Do yourself a favor and read this comic!

Victoria Ying - Il Lupo (page 1)

Victoria Ying – Il Lupo (page 1)

Victoria Ying - Il Lupo (page 2)

Victoria Ying – Il Lupo (page 2)


The Usual Harmless Subjects: Seymour Guy

…the same old pile of cats sleeping in the corner, . . . the same old detachment of cows wading across a branch at sunset, . . . the everlasting farmers, gathering their eternal squashes; and a Girl Swinging on a Gate; and a Girl Reading; and girls performing all sorts of similar prodigies. -Mark Twain, ‘Academy of Design’, San Francisco Alta California, 1867

Seymour Guy - Pick of the Orchard (1870)

Seymour Guy – Pick of the Orchard (1870)

Twain’s derisive comment about the state of art at an annual exhibition of New York’s National Academy of Design was indicative of a psychic shift in the public after experiencing the horrors of the American Civil War. It had been custom for serious artists to make some kind of wry or satirical political statement with their art. Despite the mundane subjects of these paintings, social criticism was alive and well, but in a more subtle way; and what stronger statement can there be in a time when America needed a return to normalcy and a comfortable life? This post was inspired by a lead from a reader about an essay written by David M. Lubin. The essay, ‘Guys and Dolls: Framing Feminity in Post-Civil War America’, appeared in the book, Picturing a Nation in 1994. Lubin’s analysis centers around a painting called Making a Train and although his analysis is perhaps too conventionally Freudian, he does make some interesting points.

Seymour Joseph Guy (1824–1910) was British-born and did not gain fame in the United States until after the aforementioned exhibition, but he quite effectively brought out seemingly contradictory traits of the young girl in a compelling way. He trained with the portrait painter Ambrosini Jerôme and married the daughter of an engraver, Anna Maria Barber, before moving to New York in 1854, living there until his death. He became friends with John George Brown, and they both became known for their genre paintings of children. Having nine children of his own, Guy had ample opportunity to use them as models in his work. In the case of Making a Train, the girl depicted was most likely Anna who was nine years old at the time.

Seymour Guy - Making a Train (1867)

Seymour Guy – Making a Train (1867)

Making a Train is a seductive image for any number of reasons, some of which seem to contradict one another. For example, the painting is buoyantly innocent but also teasingly erotic. In one sense the room in which the girl plays is safe, cozy, and warmly lit, but eerie shadows loom, and on the wall a sentimental print of a child in prayer has come ominously undone. Although the girl appears independent and carefree in her play, the architecture presses down as if bending her body beneath its pressure. The items of clothing strewn before her, the toy doll stuffed in a box in the half-open cupboard, the oil lamp set down behind the bars of the banister-back chair, the jutting dresser drawer, and the rumpled, unmade bed bespeak the spontaneity of the child, but they also convey disorder and an absence of discipline . . . Clean-scrubbed, rosy-cheeked, radiant, a middle-class princess, the little girl is also Cinderella, confined to a shabby attic while her haughty stepsisters and wicked stepmother attend the grand ball that she can only dream of attending. -David M. Lubin, Picturing a Nation, 1994

Seymour Guy - Red Riding Hood (1866)

Seymour Guy – Red Riding Hood (1866)

Seymour Guy - Story of Golden Locks (1870)

Seymour Guy – Story of Golden Locks (1870)

Guy’s archetypal paintings were primarily cabinet-sized and became prized by collectors of American art. He distinguished himself from his contemporaries because of his technical skill and knowledge of the science of painting. But as fashions are always transitory, Guy’s meticulous and smooth executions fell our of favor as a new generation of European-trained artists emerged in the 1880s. Although his talent has become appreciated once again in recent times, there is still very little published about the life and career of this remarkable artist. Bruce Weber has made an attempt to remedy this shortcoming.  Several paintings are referred to in Lubin’s writing but, as it happens, Pip has been collecting other excellent examples from the internet and has shared them so they can be included here .

Seymour Guy- The Haunted Cellar (Who's Afraid?) (c1870)

Seymour Guy- The Haunted Cellar (Who’s Afraid?) (c1870)

Seymour Guy - Unconscious of Danger (1865)

Seymour Guy – Unconscious of Danger (1865)

Seymour Guy - The Crossing Sweeper (1862)

Seymour Guy – The Crossing Sweeper (1862)

Seymour Guy - One for Mommy, One for Me (1881)

Seymour Guy – One for Mommy, One for Me (1881)

Seymour Guy - Dressing for the Rehearsal (1890)

Seymour Guy – Dressing for the Rehearsal (1890)

It is interesting that artists often observe the conventions of decency as in the last image where the dresser’s head is “strategically placed”.  However, this does not seem to diminish the sensuality of the image.

Random Images: Little Red Riding Hood

The next two images come from the Bettmann collection and are illustrations involving Little Red Riding Hood.

A reader has done some preliminary research (see comment below) and has followed up with additional details.  The story is written by Maria A. Hoyer and published by Ernest Nister.  The first image of the wolf approaching Red Riding Hood was illustrated by Ada Dennis.  Finding the names and dates for illustrators in Nister publications is difficult as neither of these details were considered important and are rarely mentioned.  During the over forty year existence of the publishing company, dozens of illustrators were contracted and were required to draw in a particular style making it hard to distinguish between them.  On rare occasions, signatures or initials may be present. [160227]

Bettmann - Illustration of Wolf Approaching Little Red Riding Hood

Ada Dennis – Illustration of Wolf Approaching Little Red Riding Hood (c 1890)

According to the caption, the following image came from a slide taken of a lithograph.

Bettmann - Illustration of Little Red Riding Hood

(Artist Unknown) – Illustration of Little Red Riding Hood (c1890)

From the Bettmann Archive

Anxiety and Reconciliation: Tomi Ungerer

Sometimes, when an important figure slips through the cracks of history, a passionate filmmaker comes forward to tell the story so that his contribution is not wasted. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story (2012) is dedicated to an imaginative children’s storybook writer and illustrator.

Tomi Ungerer - A Storybook: Petronella (1974)

Tomi Ungerer – A Storybook: Petronella (1974)

Jean-Thomas Ungerer (born 1931) was raised in Alsace, France, a region that has alternated between French and German control over the centuries. During the Nazi occupation, he found it was possible to learn a new language in only four months when the public use of even one French word was punishable. After the liberation of France, he discovered monsters among his own countrymen as he watched them burn German books in retaliation—not just the Nazi books, but those of Kant, Goethe, Schopenhauer, etc. Ungerer was able to express his childhood anxieties, which continued to haunt him throughout his life, by drawing. He was particularly inspired by illustrations appearing in The New Yorker magazine, especially those of Saul Steinberg, who taught him how a clear image can be conveyed with a minimum of lines or elements. You can see him toy with this idea in Snail, Where Are You? (1962) where a simple snail shape is revealed to be a part or a bigger scene (an ocean wave, a ram’s horn, etc.).

In 1956, he moved to the United States where he believed there would be more opportunities and became embroiled in controversy. His stories did not reflect the usual sentiments about what a children’s book should be and despite his vivid imagination, critics complained that many of his themes and images were too frightening. In 1958, he published Crictor about a boa constrictor sent to an old woman as a gift. Defying the stereotypical portrayal of snakes and people’s natural fear, he made Crictor a sympathetic character. The people of the town got used to Crictor’s presence, he played with the children and one day, after restraining a robber who was terrorizing the town, he became a hero. It is hard to imagine now, but as the book was being considered for an award, the judges felt they could not choose it on principle. Fortunately, cooler heads finally prevailed.

Tomi Ungerer - Crictor (1958)

Tomi Ungerer – Crictor (1958)

After centuries under Christian domination, most Westerners are conditioned to view things through the lens of good and evil. But in many other parts of the world, monsters are more ambiguous; Godzilla and Gamera in Japanese films are well-known examples. While the robber in Crictor was a villain, The Three Robbers (1961) turn out to be compassionate characters. Naturally, they robbed people, but in the course of their escapades, they rescued little Tiffany from an unhappy life with her stepmother. They began to use their wealth to feed and clothe her and eventually collected orphaned children and settled them in a village where they could grow up happily.

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (1)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (1)

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (2)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (2)

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (3)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (3)

Tomi Ungerer - The Three Robbers (1961) (4)

Tomi Ungerer – The Three Robbers (1961) (4)

Ungerer also illustrated some classic stories such as Changing Places where a man and wife trade duties for a day—the man thinking he got the better part of the deal. He also illustrated his own rendition of Little Red Riding Hood (1974). The classic story already has strongly Freudian connotations: the symbolism of the red hood, the roles of the grandmother and the huntsman, not to mention an innocent girl’s encounter with a wolf. Ungerer’s version does not offer us a sly seducer with a hidden agenda, but a powerful gangster named Duke who decides to make Red Riding Hood a forthright proposal. Like The Three Robbers, the girl in this story has an abusive grandmother and would rather not continue bringing her care packages. Duke argues that since the grandmother’s reputation is even worse than his, Red Riding Hood would be better off staying with him. The detail of the Iron Cross around his neck suggests that he is also symbolic of German aggression against a vulnerable “French” Red Riding Hood. This makes Ungerer’s resolution to the story interesting and prophetic as he later dedicated his life to an amicable reconciliation between the French and German people.

Tomi Ungerer - A Storybook: Little Red Riding Hood (1974)

Tomi Ungerer – A Storybook: Little Red Riding Hood (1974)

Tomi Ungerer - A Storybook: Changing Places (1974)

Tomi Ungerer – A Storybook: Changing Places (1974)

Another interesting story with a surprising twist is Zeralda’s Ogre (1967). It seems an ogre has been terrorizing a town and eating its children. In response, the townsfolk do their best to hide their children much to the ogre’s frustration. Meanwhile, a farmer in a remote area who had not heard of the ogre becomes ill and has to send his only daughter to the town market to sell their wares. As she approaches, the ogre spots her and eagerly waits to pounce. But in his eagerness, he falls off a cliff and is hurt. Zeralda, distressed over this, nurses him back to health.

Tomi Ungerer - Zeralda's Ogre (1967) (1)

Tomi Ungerer – Zeralda’s Ogre (1967) (1)

It happens that Zeralda is an exceptional cook and in caring for the ogre, he is impressed by her extravagant cuisine and decides he much prefers it to children. Indeed, like “Duke” in the previous story, he proposes she stay with him to cook and shares his wealth to help her and her father. As he is no longer a menace, the children of the town are seen outside again and eventually the two fall in love, the ogre shaves his beard and they have lots of children!

Tomi Ungerer - Zeralda's Ogre (1967) (2)

Tomi Ungerer – Zeralda’s Ogre (1967) (2)

Tomi Ungerer - Zeralda's Ogre (1967) (3)

Tomi Ungerer – Zeralda’s Ogre (1967) (3)

A fertile mind like Ungerer’s would not have been satisfied with just children’s books. During a trip to Texas, he was appalled to discover the existence of segregation. After surviving a fascist regime himself, he was surprised to find something like this happening in America. According to Ungerer, this revelation prompted an explosion of creative output—a series of politically satirical posters. He later expanded his satire to include protests over the Vietnam conflict. At the time, it was not considered appropriate for an illustrator of children’s books to do work in other genres, so his political satire ruffled a few feathers, to say the least. The greatest trouble, however, was caused when he began to explore erotic subjects and even published books in that genre. Before the days of the internet, it took time for word to spread. And when he was finally confronted at a book fair and, not recognizing the strength of the taboo, Ungerer simply shot back with a facetious remark. Practically overnight, his career was ended as libraries banned his children’s books and a whole generation, including mine, grew up without exposure to this artist’s vivid imagination. He moved with his family to a remote part of Nova Scotia for a time and in 1976 to West Cork, Ireland where he lives today. Beginning in the 1990s, with the enthusiastic support of his fans, Ungerer’s popularity began to return and now many of his children’s books have been republished.

Ungerer inspired many artists including Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are (1963). His biggest accolade came in 1998 when he was awarded the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for his “lasting contribution” as a children’s illustrator. Many of Ungerer’s manuscripts and artwork for his early children’s books can be viewed at the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia. In 2007, Strasbourg—his birthplace where he still makes frequent visits—dedicated a museum to him, the Musée Tomi Ungerer/Centre international de l’illustration.

Tomi Ungerer Official Site
Saul Steinberg Foundation