“Her achievement was beauty, a delicate, fantastic beauty, created with brush and pencil. Almost unschooled in art, her life spent in prosaic places of the West and Middle West, she made pictures of haunting loveliness, suggesting Oriental lands she never saw and magical realms no one ever knew except in the dreams of childhood … Perhaps it was the hardships of her own life that gave the young artist’s work its fanciful quality. In the imaginative scenes she set down on paper she must have escaped from the harsh actualities of existence.”
I am starting off this blog with my favourite Golden Age artist, Virginia Frances Sterrett. The above comment from the St Louis Post-Dispatch of July 1931, perfectly sums up her amazing accomplishments despite her short and difficult life.
Virginia Frances Sterrett was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1900 and moved with her family to Missouri and Kansas following the death of her father.
She started to draw as a small child and, encouraged by the success of her drawings in the Kansas State Fair Exhibition, she went to Chicago at 15 to attend high school and study art. She was given a full scholarship. Unfortunately, her mother became ill and Sterrett was forced to leave her studies to support the family. Virginia worked in various art advertising agencies until her own health began to fail. In 1919 at age 19, Sterrett received her first commission. She was also diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Old French Fairy Tales was published in 1920. Consisting of 5 ageless fairy tales by Sophie, la Comtesse de Ségur, the book included 8 magnificent full page colour illustrations and many equally stunning line drawings.
She threw her arms around the neck of Bonne-Biche
Rosalie never left the park, which was surrounded by high walls
They were three months passing through the forest
The fairy must give herself up to the queen and lose her power for eight days
What are you seeking, little one?
The broom was on fire at once, blazed up and burned her hands
Violette consented willingly to pass the night in the forest
I have enjoyed restoring these wonderful illustrations and have some products to share with you. All images are at least 300 ppi to show the incredible detail. Please take a look.
I’ll be visiting Virginia’s life and work again at a later date so please do come back.