Saturday, April 24, 2010

John Austen's Fairie Queen Design Completed by Agnes Miller Parker

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John Austen was a carpenter turned prolific illustrator, and one of the most favored by the Limited Editions Club. While living in Kent, he brought his idea to the LEC directors, for an edition of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen. He would draw a series of illustrations, which would be turned into wood engravings. The works would resemble the story-telling tapestries of Elizabethan times. While the Nazis fought the British overhead, Austen embarked on the project, drawing sample pages, headings and drawings. As he began to work on the wood engravings, he started to lose the use of his right arm, and then the use of all his muscles. He died in 1948.
Agnes Miller Parker, a wood engraver and friend of John Austen, finished the project. The results are lovely -- detailed patterns and rich textures. Top illustration is King Arthur.

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Britomart, the courageous lady knight

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The Redcrosse Knight and the Dragon

The Heritage Press version of this book is currently available.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Images of Oz From John R. Neill, Royal Illustrator of Oz

It was a good week and I had a nice find. I picked up a small lot of early printing Wizard of Oz books, Reilly & Lee, illustrated by John R. Neill. So now I have the opportunity to share some wonderful art from the Oz books.

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Neill was a naturally gifted artist and an art school dropout. He was reported as saying, "They have nothing to teach me." He delved into a career as a newspaper illustrator honing his skills in busy Philadelphia newsrooms. He branched out into book illustrations and eventually became a freelance illustrator.

He is the most well known illustrator of Oz, illustrating 35 books in the series. It is enjoyable to peruse the Oz books, as some were primarily illustrated in black and white; some were illustrated with color plates and some were illustrated with four-color throughout. The Patchwork Girl of Oz is an example of an edition which used four-color throughout. Love these bright illustrations.

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The illustrated endpapers are vibrant.

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I really like the design of these pages.

The first illustrator of Oz, W.W. Denslow, illustrated Dorothy as a younger, chubbier little girl with reddish-brown hair. Neill totally changed and modernized Dorothy in Ozma of Oz.

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Dorothy from Dorothy and The Wizard in Oz.

The Emerald City of Oz has some very pretty color plates of Dorothy in a very romantic style.

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Another great image from The Emerald City of Oz

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Dorothy with the Princess Ozma in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.

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Neill's OZ illustration career spanned 30+ years. What a fun way to make a living!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Little Golden Books Art: Viewing the Real Thing at Lake County Discovery Museum

I had a wonderful museum visit today where I saw 65 of the original watercolors, gouaches and pen and ink illustrations from Little Golden Books. I got a kick out of my friend's surprise that the Golden Book illustrations really were art.

Even though I've appreciated the talents of Golden Book illustrators for some time, my appreciation grew after seeing the "real thing." It was intriguing to see the texture and details of the works. It was also interesting to see the wide variety of artistic styles.

Here is one of Eloise Wilkins nature paintings featured in My Little Golden Book About God. Wilkins work has a harmonious quality.

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Gustaf Tenggren is one of my favorite Golden illustrators and he was one of the most prolific. His work also shows great range. Here is a painting for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This as well as some of his other work has a folk art feel.

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The mediums used were primarily pen and ink, watercolor and gouache. Gouache is a type of watercolor that is more vivid and opaque.

Garth Williams Elves and Fairies.

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Elizabeth Orton Jones' Big Bad Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood

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It did surprise me that this is the most extensive showing of original Golden Book illustration. The art was borrowed from the Racine Heritage Museum; Racine, Wisconsin is the birthplace of the Little Golden Books. I would love to see a more extensive showing; maybe the Racine Museum will do that someday.

Learn more about the exhibit.