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children's book illustration

A Great Tradition

Illustrations for children's books usually enhanced or explained the text, but in the latter quarter of the 19th cent. three artistic giants, Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott, gave a new dimension to illustration. They produced the picture storybook in which interdependent text and illustration are given equal emphasis. Crane's nursery-song prints in Baby's Bouquet (1908) combine soft colors with bold composition. Greenaway's Under the Window (1878) is enhanced by delicate garden colors. In the 1870s and 80s Caldecott's nursery books displayed harmonious linear composition and warm color.

The exquisite watercolors in Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books reveal her careful observation of small wild animals. The grandeur and dignity of Howard Pyle's portraits intensify the heroic adventures of Robin Hood (1883) and Men of Iron (1890). Two of Pyle's students were Jessie Wilcox, who illustrated Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses (1905) and N. C. Wyeth, whose dramatization of individuals and landscape enriched Treasure Island (1917), Robinson Crusoe (1920), and many other works. The master illustrator Arthur Rackham produced a host of magnificent books beginning in 1900 with The Fairy Tales of Grimm. His work is noted for brilliant use of color and dramatic, detailed composition. Ernest Shepard's drawings for A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and for an edition of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows (1931) are warm and humorous.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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