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Early Twentieth Century Illustrators: Classic Favorites

Originally published September 2022

It all started with Aubrey Beardsley, (1872 – 1898, England) in early studies when I thought I wanted to be an artist. Pen and ink drawings were my oeuvre, so to speak. So, I endeavored to copy him—below was my favorite accomplishment. The Narnia illustrations by Pauline Baynes seemed to reek of Beardsley, to my un-studied eyes.

Edmunc Dulac was born in 1882, in France. (d. 1953) His elaborate, colorful, dreamy paintings decorated the published tales of Hans Christian Anderson, Omar Kayyam’s Rubaiyat, and The Comedy of the Tempest by William Shakespeare.

Another Englishman, Arthur Rackham, (1867 – 1939) is best known for his fairy tale work, however he also illustrated The Tempest.

Born in 1870, in Philadelphia, an American broke into this esteemed clan of illustrators. Maxfield Parrish (d 1966) illustrated numerous books and magazine ads, and designed for Tiffany. One of his most well-known images was painted for a lamp company. One of his designs for a chocolate box was based on the Rubaiyat.

All of this male talent makes me wonder where the women were. Chicago-born Margaret Brundage (1900 – 1976) comes to mind, with her title “Queen of the Pulps”. In the 1930s she produced beautiful and of course, highly-sexualized illustrations for Weird Tales.

In researching tarot decks, I came across Pamela Coleman Smith (1878 – 1951), who not only illustrated the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, but many books and magazines and produced 100s of images.

These two very talented artists are, I am sure, only a tiny fraction of female illustrators working at the turn of the last century and beyond. My own lack of knowledge was partly from ignorance but also partly from the lack of female representation (except as subjects) in the reference books I had at the time. Beatrix Potter, Jesse Wilcox Smith, and many more appear in my research.

Go to my website here to see examples of these artists’ work.

Who can name others for me? Women who drew for money, and preferably, for other than children’s stories?


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