Women Illustrators from the Golden Age of Fairy Tales

Yesterday on Twitter, I shared a few of the Golden Age’s female illustrators and thought I’d go into a bit more depth here. There is a difference between the ‘Golden Age’ of fairy tales, and the one of illustration, but the artists I share here cover both. They were illustrating fairy tales at the time when both fairy tales and illustration was at their peak, around the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

12618351_1198685337_e279793bc0560b5207Ida was an Australian Illustrator, and she often included local flora and fauna in her fairy tale illustrations. She worked predominantly with pen & ink, and watercolour. Her use of silhouettes, and the detail within them, is breathtaking. She was born in Melbourne, Australia, and worked and lived there all of her life. You can read more about her life here, and do make sure you view a google image search of her works here.

I had a couple of her books as a child, and loved her work. I still do. The illustration shown is taken from her 1921 book The Enchanted Woods, which she collaborated on with her husband Grenbry, and you can see here how she often imbues her work with a gentle humour – a koala with a top hat and walking stick – of course!

Virginia Frances Sterrett

Old_French_Fairy_Tales_(Virginia_Sterrett,_1920)Poor Virginia only lived a short 31 years, after contracting tuberculosis at 19, around the same time as she received her first commission. Her ability to work declined over the 12 years she had left, and her last collection of works, based around the Arabian nights, took several years. She’s one of my favourite fairy tale illustrators.

Dark but full of light, delicate but with an incredible strength of line, her work always catches me deep in the chest. Go, bask in her genius here.

 Florence Harrison

tumblr_n83tdaOdRN1rtdn1mo5_500There’s very little on Wikipedia on Florence, and her true identity has been disputed, but this website dedicated to her and a collection of her works looks like it may clear things up, and is a fascinating read into one woman’s love for Florence’s work.

Florence was an Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite artist. She illustrated the writings of Christina Rossetti and Alfred Tennyson, as well as poetry and fairy tales. She also wrote poetry and short stories herself.

In the illustration pictured here, you can feel the chill wind and lonely melancholy of Rapunzel in her tower.

Frances MacDonald (MacNair)

Frances was a Scottish artist, whose every claim for fame seems to have been overshadowed or thwarted by others. Not only was she the younger (and lesser known) sister of Margaret MacDonald, who in turn was overshadowed by her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but her husband also destroyed many works after her death. Makes you want to scream doesn’t it? Anyway, she certainly wasn’t a shrinking violet in her lifetime (she was a founding member of the Glasgow School), and she deserves to be better known. View more of her works here.

Frances_Macdonald,_Sleeping_Princess

Anne Anderson

anne_anderson_little_mermaid_foamAnne Anderson was a Scottish Illustrator, and by the sound of it, had a nice, normal prolific life. No TB (though she did only live to 56 now that I look again), no obvious overshadowing by others, and no disappearing into obscurity. She married fellow illustration Alan Wright, and they collaborated on many projects, on which she is believed to have been the driving force.

Her work, mostly in watercolour, is much like her life appears to have been (though of course who are we to assume?): beautifully executed, probably conventional for her time, but really quite lovely.

That was by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. Do you have a favourite illustrator that I missed?

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