The Four Gardens Illustrated by Charles Robinson
I love Charles Robinson’s art; his chubby pen and ink children and wonderful watercolours. His style and amazing use of colour are instantly recognisable. For me, he could do no wrong.
I particularly love Robinson’s illustrations of flowers and gardens and when a very resonably priced copy of The Four Gardens by Emily ‘Handasyde’ Buchanan came up on Ebay, I grabbed it.
The November 1912 edition of The Spectator contains a very kind review of the book itself;
“There is a wholesome fragrance about these garden sketches that is very pleasant. Each of the four has a character of its own, but each leads us naturally to the next, as do the colours in a well-planned garden.”
They could almost be talking about the illustrations, I think. I read on, expecting a glowing and flowery 1912 description of Robinsons art…
“We have nothing but good to say of the little black-and-white illustrations, but the coloured ones are sad examples of their process. What could be less like the clear red of a strawberry for instance, than those in the picture opposite page 124?”
“But they’re Charles Robinson strawberries!” I complain to the cat, who doesn’t seem to care. I realise, with surprise, that even an illustrator from such an artistically talented family (father Thomas, brothers William and Thomas Jr.) had to satisfy the critics of the time.
This critic though, was clearly an idiot.
Here are those strawberries along with my favourite illustrations from the book.
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The Polar Bear in Art
Considering the great respect and spiritual attachment the polar bear has, I would expect it to be featured more often in Golden Age illustration.
The great white bear has been the subject of folk tales and legends told for centuries by the Inuits and other indigenous people of the Arctic. Their stories are of polar bears teaching men to hunt, a cub adopted by a childless woman and the terrifying Nanurluk, a bear the size of an iceberg.
The Norwegian folk tales tell of men transformed into bears by evil trolls, hags or witches, wandering the tundra in search of a true love who will break the spell.
Happily, two of my favourite artists provided polar bear illustrations for such tales, Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac.
The first is Nielsen’s White Bear from the Norwegian folk tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon. The bear carries his future bride to a magic castle;
“Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way.
Eventually, through determination and a knowledge of how to remove candle wax from a shirt, the girl gets a prince and the bear gets the girl.
Below is Dulac’s Snow Maiden from The Dreamer of Dreams. The hero comes across a large number of polar bears.
They came slowly towards him, quiet and majestic, slightly swinging their heavy bodies as they glided onwards.
They accompany a snow maiden, gathering broken hearts;
Everything about her was white, glistening and shining ; so shining that the human eye could hardly bear the radiance. her long white hair hung about her ; a circle of glow-worms surrounded her forehead.
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I Bought a Book – Part 1
“You BOUGHT a book? Aren’t you supposed to be selling the things?”
My son tuts and leaves me to excitedly open the package. He has a point. Despite our desperate need for space due to piles/boxes/cases of books, I have not been able to resist the urge to grab a bargain.
I’ve always loved Anne Anderson and the soft, flowing, art nouveau style of her watercolours – the Grimm and Andersen fairy tale art being the most famous – but have been unaware of this series of 8 books, published by Nelson in the early 1900’s, each edition containing twelve full page colour illustrations of gorgeousness.
The new addition to my Golden Age collection is The Gillyflower Garden Book. The pictures are wonderful, each showing happy, rosy-cheeked children enjoying various gardening jobs (ha, I must put this on the ‘fantasy’ shelf!) performed throughout the year.
Here they are! Please click on the pics for bigger versions and enjoy.
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Born in Rotterdam Holland in 1889, Henriette Willebeek Le Mair was always destined to be imaginative and artistic. From birth she was immersed in a stimulating and creative environment. Her father would tell stories and create sketches and pictures of the children and her mother was a keen painter and writer of poetry and verse.
Le Mair appreciated the work of Maurice Boutet de Monvel, the most successful illustrator in France at that time. At fifteen years old, her parents took her to see him in Paris to ask his advice. He told her to study anatomy and gave her advice on painting childrens’ portraits. Every year she would return to him to show him her progress. De Monvel also convinced her to study at the Rotterdam Academy from 1909 to 1911. She also studied under a drawing-master in Holland. He required her to draw the model while it danced in circles, first at a slow speed, then at increased speeds.
Her first book “Premieres Rondes Enfantines” was published in France in 1904 when she was just 15 years old. One year later Henriette collaborated with her mother on a series of three books containing her mothers verse with Henriette providing the illustrations. Her most prolific period of work was between the years of 1911 to 1917. Like many other artists of the time, her work also appeared on sets of postcards and children’s china.
In her early twenties she ran an exclusive nursery school in her home and drew from this experience for much of her work, using her pupils as her models just as Cicely Mary Barker did. In 1920 Le Mair married H.P. Baron van Tuyll van Serooskerkenand and adopted the name “Saida”. They both converted to the beliefs of Sufism, a religion of universal brotherhood and love, as taught by Murshid Inayat Khan, and spent their lives helping the poor and other charitable causes. They eventually settled in The Hague, Netherlands.
Her delicate style of painting and the medium of watercolor were ideal for showing children in beautiful surroundings. Her illustrations show painstaking and minute attention to detail. Her drawing style was flat with muted colors and decorative borders. One critic from The Studio wrote; “Since the days of Kate Greenaway I know of no one who has caught so well the spirit of childhood as Miss Willebeek Le Mair.”
Henriette Willebeek Le Mair died on the 15th of March 1966 aged 77.
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