Monday, March 15, 2010

Virgina Frances Sterrett

Stop the presses, I've fallen in love with another illustrator.  I've spoken about my love of gilded age illustrators before, particularly Kay Nielsen, so it should come as no surprise that as soon as I read the phrase "female Kay Nielsen," I started googling like crazy.  Virginia Sterrett was born in 1900, and diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 19.  She lived to be 31, and her body of work dates entirely from those 12 years.  It breaks my heart that we have so little of her gorgeous work by which to remember her.
She's known for her illustrations in three publications: Old French Fairytales by Comtesse de Segur, 1920 (available in its entirety here), Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1921 (illustrations here), and Arabian Nights, 1928 (illustrations here).
The following, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch following her death, seems imminently appropriate: "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."
 You can read her biography on her website, or the short stub on Wikipedia.  I discovered her via A Journey Round My Skull.

If you're interested in learning more about female illustrators, I highly recommend this new blog.  His focus is the mid-century, which is a bit later than my interest in illustration goes, but it's an extremely well-written blog.

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