Monday, November 23, 2009

A Trip Aboard the Way-Back Machine


Indulge me; it's my birthday. I love the Arts and Crafts style, a design movement begun around the turn of the (last) century and its adjuncts, Art Nouveau, the Prairie Style, etc. This month's Style 1900 magazine has a feature by Irene M.K. Rawlings on children's book illustrators from that time period, and when two of your passions intersect it's impossible to ignore. I bring to your attention four of the illustrators mentioned in the article, all of whose work I am so in love with that I want to marry it:

Elizabeth Shippen Green -- (1871-1954) Illustrated children's books as well as grown-up books. She studied under the "Father of American Illustration," Howard Pyle, as well as other masters. The article in Style 1900 says of her work "she is best known for her children's book illustrations done in a highly decorative, shimmery style that is often compared to stained glass." This cover for The Very Small Person by Annie Hamilton Donnell (1906) is a fair example of covers from that time, with its cartouche surrounding the title, etc. and a plate from the book pasted on the cover. Often, books were sold with paper dust jackets, but these were typically removed and thrown away (source: Alan Powers, Children's Book Covers). Below is an interior illustration from The Very Small Person:


Read the book in its entirety here. And here's another Green illustration from The Book of the Child (1902):


Clara Elsene Peck -- (1883 – 1968) Another student of Howard Pyle's. She did the cover image and interior illustrations for In the Border Country by Josephine Daskam Bacon (1909) cover shown at left, as well as several other children's books and covers for Colliers and other magazines. View the entire book here.

Here's her cover for Shakespeare's Sweetheart by Sara Hawkes Sterling (1905):


And her illustrations are, in my humble opinion, to-die-for gorgeous. Love this table of contents page for In the Border Country:


Maginel Wright Enright Barney -- (1881-1966) She was probably tired of being introduced as the younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright, but there you go. She was. And she was the mother of Elizabeth Enright. She illustrated over forty children's books, including many by L. Frank Baum writing under his pseudonym, Laura Bancroft. Here's one:


And here's an interior illustration from Hans Brinker:


Read/view the entire book online here. Maginel is, incidentally, a nickname derived from the combination of Maggie and Nell.

Maxfield Parrish -- (1870- 1966) Probably the best known of the ones featured in this post, this guy could draw. One of the qualities I love most about all of these artists is their bold compositions. Everything is so elegantly balanced and so appropriate for the mood of the drawing. The cover for The Knave of Hearts by Louise Saunders (1925), left, is one I find utterly appealing. The symmetry, the muted colors (so indicative of the Arts and Crafts period), the giant spoons for a touch of whimsy. It all works. It's no wonder his work was sometimes reprinted as large lithographs for people to hang in their homes.

We'll end this post with more Parrish eye candy, though not children's book covers. I said it was my birthday, remember? First an image of Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary:



and this one (below), an oil painting titled "The Lantern Bearers," (1908), which according to this source sold for $4,272,000 at auction not long ago. Same source says it "was originally created for a frontispiece for Collier's magazine's December 10, 1910, issue."



1 comment:

  1. Hapy Birthday!! I love these old covers too but didn't know what to call them other than vintage. Thanks for all the background info.

    I hear there may be a trend back to art on the boards instead of on jackets. I would love that.

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