Today’s post is going to be a little different, a reflection of my newest obsession, the golden age of illustration, which ran roughly from 1880 to 1920. As Artcyclopedia puts it, advances in technology allowed for “accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art,” both in books and magazines.
Nowhere was this more evident or glorious than in illustrations for children’s books. Beatrix Potter, of course, comes to mind, but there were many others, too: Edmund Dulac, Jessie Willcox Smith, Walter Crane, and Sir John Tennial, to name a few.
As chance would have it, there is even a Facebook group called The Golden Age of illustration. I joined the group not long ago, and that’s when I became hooked on illustrations from this period, especially the ones for children’s books. Not surprising as I write books for young people.
Many of the images from this period are in the public domain, which means we are free to use them as we wish. Clif, who is a talented graphic artist, has caught the golden age of illustration bug and is working with some of the pictures. He has been enlarging the illustrations, smoothing the pixels, and retouching the illustrations. We plan to sell matted prints at fairs we go to, and he has done research about the artist and the books the illustrations come from. This information will be included with the prints.
Below are five of the illustrations he has worked on, and they are by Edmund Dulac and Jessie Willcox Smith.
This is one of my favorites. The illustrator is Edmund Dulac, and the picture is from the story “A Little Girl in a Book,” written by Mrs. Rodolph Stawell. Funny to think there was a time when women writers went by their husband’s name, but there you are. Progress has definitely been made on that front.
This is another of Edmund Dulac’s illustrations, and it’s from “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s not a scene I’m familiar with, that’s for sure.
Jessie Willcox Smith did this illustration for The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.
As well as this one—Little Red and the Wolf—otherwise known as Little Red Riding Hood.
And finally, here is a Jessie Willcox Smith’s illustration from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.
Today, there are many fine artists who create illustrations for children’s books. But for me, there is something about pictures from the Golden Age of Illustration that captures the wonder, magic, and even the dread of fantasy and fairy tales.
I wonder what it was from that period that allowed illustrators to tap into art that goes so beautifully with the stories.