Any of us who have had children have collected at least a superficial amount of books illustrating fairy tales and other fantastical stories written for children. This wonderful book devotes a chapter each to twelve illustrators whose careers span from the Civil War to post WWII.
The author uses a formula for each biography: where the illustrator was born, how they were raised, where they got their education, how their careers got launched and their unique style of illustrating. Most of them are British but a few are from other countries. Also described is the special relationship that some of them had with the authors.
Not all illustrators and authors got along, however. This is true for Lewis Carroll and his illustrator, John Tenniel. At first Carroll wanted nothing to do with Tenniel's illustrations but the success of Alice in Wonderland forced him to admit that Tenniel's illustrations contributed to the book's popularity. It took some persuading for Tenniel to illustrate the "abrasive" Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass.
|Rackham's Mad Hatter bears a remarkable resemble to himself.|
|The King's son demands the giant's youngest daughter to wed from The Battle of the Birds|
|The Tale of Jeremy Fisher|
|Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)|
Some of the illustrators wrote their own stories. Beatrix Potter did this. She wrote stories in letters to a young boy who was sick in bed for a period of time. Years later, she asked for the stories back and luckily (!) the boy and his siblings had kept the letters and were able to give them to her. She published these stories along with her own illustrations. Thanks to a family that didn't throw letters away, Peter Rabbit and company were saved from oblivion.
Edward Lear (1812-1888)
Edward Lear didn't illustrate his own stories but he did illustrate poems he made up. His limericks are probably more famous than the drawings he created to accompany them. The book of limericks that I own aren't even illustrated by him but by another famous illustrator, Edmund Dulac.
Dulac, a Frenchman, was a contemporary of Rackham. He was influenced by middle eastern and oriental art and illustrated Arabian Nights, Russian Fairy Tales as well as traditional western fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson. The colors he uses in all his illustrations are filled with rich, vibrant color.
|Kate Greenaway (1846-1901)|
Kate never married but she held a fairly intense relationship with her "lover in writing" John Ruskin. He was her closest confidant and- even though they rarely met in person- her most faithful critic and biggest influence on her painting.
|Kay Nielson (1886-1957)|
My favorite illustrator after Rackham is someone I had not known about before, Kay (pronounced "Kye") Nielson. Nielson was a Dane who unfortunately died in obscurity but whose art has since made a comeback. His illustrations reflect his Nordic background and are, in my opinion, exquisite.
|Howard Pyle (1853-1911)|
The last three illustrators in the book are American: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and W.W. Denslow.
Pyle, a strict Puritan, relegated himself to historical legends and adventure novels about pirates, Indians, cowboys, Robin Hood and Arthurian legends by authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Daniel Defoe, and James Fenimore Cooper- as did his pupil N.C. Wyeth. Denslow is famous for his Wizard of Oz paintings.
|W.W. Denslow (1856-1915)|
I found this book in the library but shortly after diving into it I ordered a good used copy online. Of course what money I saved from buying the book for a couple of dollars has probably been countermanded by all the collections of fairy tales and the like that I've bought filled with the illustrations of these wonderful artists.