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The Best of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Illustrations of the Fairy Realm from "The Golden Age of Illustration"

Updated on May 3, 2016

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888-1960) was among the first Australian illustrators to achieve international fame - and her fame was deserved as she is most well known for her wonderful whimsical fairy and fairy tale images (her fairies are often to be found playing with kookaburras, koalas and kangaroos).

Here we show a vintage photograph of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.
Here we show a vintage photograph of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's first illustrations were published whilst she was in her teens - some appeared in The New Idea accompanying a story by her sister, Annie Rentoul. In the years that followed, the sisters collaborated on a number of modern fairy tales. Following her marriage to Grenbry Outhwaite in 1909, too, she collaborated with her husband - most notably for Elves and Fairies (1916), The Enchanted Forest (1921), The Little Fairy Sister (1923) and Fairyland (1926). In a number of cases, her children - Robert, Anne, Wendy and William - served as models for her illustrations.

While we have provided links for various products available through Amazon throughout this Hub, you may also like to consider the wider range available at the Ida Rentoul Outhwaite Collection shown at the 'Spirit of the Ages' Museum.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "Elves and Fairies" (1916)

Here we show a portion of 'The Little Witch' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Elves and Fairies" (1916).
Here we show a portion of 'The Little Witch' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Elves and Fairies" (1916).

Elves and Fairies (1916) was a collaboration between Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (as Illustrator), her sister (who contributed Verses) and her husband (as Editor) - it was first published in a Limited Edition by Lothian Book Publishing Company (Melbourne, Australia). The date of its release is known to have been 1 October, 1916.

Further to the details provided on the Copyright page of that First Edition (typically signed by the artist), three other Melbourne firms worked with publisher to produce Elves and Fairies (1916): Globe Engraving Co Pty Ltd (photography and plate preparation); Osboldstone & Co Pty Ltd (printing); and The Specialty Press Pty Ltd (binding and letterpress).

The suite of designs from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in Elves and Fairies (1916) included 15 color and 30 monotone illustrations.

Here we show a portion of 'Jack O'Lantern' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Elves and Fairies" (1916).
Here we show a portion of 'Jack O'Lantern' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Elves and Fairies" (1916).

Ida Renoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "The Enchanted Forest" (1921)

Here we show a portion of 'The Jazz Band' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Enchanted Forest" (1921).
Here we show a portion of 'The Jazz Band' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Enchanted Forest" (1921).

The suite of illustrations by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in The Enchanted Forest (1921) included 16 color images, in addition to a further 15 major monotone designs.

The titles of the color illustrations in that suite include:

  • "Fairy Beauty looking over the Happy Valley";
  • "A Fairy Frock";
  • "Refreshments";
  • "The Jazz Band";
  • "The Butterfly Chariot";
  • "Fairy-Beauty rocks a Babe";
  • "Anne rides on a Nautilus Shell";
  • "Drawn by Fishes";
  • "The Witch on her Broomstick";
  • "The Witch's Sister on her Black Bat";
  • "The Torn Wing";
  • "Anne plays the Pipes";
  • "The Wee Sick Goblin";
  • "Potty talks to the Forest Creatures";
  • "Good-Bye to Potty"; and
  • "Anne nearing Home".

Here we show each of the full-color designs by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in "The Enchanted Forest" (1921).
Here we show each of the full-color designs by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in "The Enchanted Forest" (1921).
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite Greeting Cards (16 Designs from "The Enchanted Forest" [1921])
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite Greeting Cards (16 Designs from "The Enchanted Forest" [1921])

The illustrations on these Greeting Cards are prepared as tipped-on plates - in the manner of prestige illustrated publications produced in the early decades of the 20th Century. Those tipped-on features are applied to acid-free Ivory card with an accompanying envelope. Each card measures approximately 7 x 5".

 

The Enchanted Forest (1921) was a collaboration between Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and her husband - a man whose business acumen may have contributed significantly to his wife's success. For The Enchanted Forest (1921), for example, Grenbry is known to have subsidized the printing costs with his own contribution of £400 to ensure high quality reproduction of his wife's illustrations.

The Enchanted Forest (1921) received critical praise upon publication, including the following comment appearing in British Weekly:

"This is a beautiful fairy story picture-book delightfully illustrated. The artist merits the highest praise for her delicate, beautiful drawings with their humorous touches".

The suite of illustrations by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in The Enchanted Forest (1921) included 16 color images, in addition to a further 15 major monotone designs.

Here we show a portion of 'Anne rides on the Heavenly River' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Enchanted Forest" (1921).
Here we show a portion of 'Anne rides on the Heavenly River' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Enchanted Forest" (1921).

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "The Little Green Road to Fairyland" (1922)

The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922) is an example of the wonderful outcome of collaboration between Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and her sister, Annie Rentoul.

The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922) received critical praise following publication, including the following comment appearing in The Times:

"'The Little Green Road to Fairyland' takes its way behind a little green mossy door. It is an intriguing road and the illustrations will enhance its value to those who read, while ... [the artist's] Fairy comes very near to the children because she can 'nearly cry' and has a heart to recognise human kindness".

For The Little Green Road to Fairyland (1922), Ida Rentoul Outhwaite prepared a suite of color and monotone illustrations (including marginalia) to accompany her sister's literary work. That suite of illustrations included 8 color illustrations and a further 8 major monotone images.

Here we show a portion of 'Keep her in our cavern for our Queen!' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Little Green Road to Fairyland" (1922).
Here we show a portion of 'Keep her in our cavern for our Queen!' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Little Green Road to Fairyland" (1922).

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "The Little Fairy Sister" (1923)

Here we show a portion of 'The farthest ones looked like great butterflies' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Little Fairy Sister" (1923).
Here we show a portion of 'The farthest ones looked like great butterflies' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Little Fairy Sister" (1923).

The Little Fairy Sister (1923) is a further collaboration between Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and her husband it was published two years after the success of The Enchanted Forest (1921).

The contemporary review of The Little Fairy Sister (1923) published in Daily Graphic provided the following praise for the tale:

"There are many who think that since the days of Grimm, Hans Andersen and our own Lewis Carrol, the art of writing a fairy story is dead; but these, once they have 'The Little Fairy Sister' ... will find reason to alter their opinion in this respect".

As for Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for The Little Fairy Sister (1923), those also received critical praise, including the following comment from The Record:

"The fairy romance is told with a delightful charm which will appeal to the imagination of children, whilst the illustrations are beyond praise for the delicacy of their coloring and clearness of outline".

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's designs for The Little Fairy Sister (1923) - including 8 color and and 8 major monotone illustrations - are superb with wonderful representations of various occupants of the fairy realm and an inspired infusion of Australian native fauna and flora.

Here we show a portion of 'Nancy ran right into the arms of the Fairy Queen' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Little Fairy Sister" (1923).
Here we show a portion of 'Nancy ran right into the arms of the Fairy Queen' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Little Fairy Sister" (1923).

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "The Sentry and the Shell Fairy" (1924)

Here we show a portion of 'For centuries the Pyramids alone remained a witness of the Glory of Egypt' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Sentry and the Shell Fairy" (1924).
Here we show a portion of 'For centuries the Pyramids alone remained a witness of the Glory of Egypt' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "The Sentry and the Shell Fairy" (1924).

The Sentry and the Shell Fairy (1924) is a wonderful example of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations being tailored to promotional material for an Oil company (Shell) that, itself, was dressed in the guise of a fairy story.

The tale is set in Egypt and revolves around an ANZAC Sentry and his interactions with the local fairies - wherein he is given the "secrets of the Pharaohs", that is, the secret behind the technology for building the pyramids. That secret, of course, turns out to be "precious oil" which can be bought through a Shell supplier.

Fortunately, the whimsical story progresses without overt marketing until the final page and even then, the pitch is presented in such a quaint manner that it is, in itself, entertaining.

Artwork from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in The Sentry and the Shell Fairy (1924) included the cover illustration, 6 full-color images and a further 3 monotone designs.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "Fairyland" (1926)

Here we show a portion of 'The Crystal Gazer' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Fairyland" (1926).
Here we show a portion of 'The Crystal Gazer' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Fairyland" (1926).
Here we show each of the full-color designs by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in "Fairyland" (1926).
Here we show each of the full-color designs by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in "Fairyland" (1926).
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite Greeting Cards (19 Designs from "Fairyland" [1926])
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite Greeting Cards (19 Designs from "Fairyland" [1926])

The illustrations on these Greeting Cards are prepared as tipped-on plates - in the manner of prestige illustrated publications produced in the early decades of the 20th Century. Those tipped-on features are applied to acid-free Ivory card with an accompanying envelope. Each card measures approximately 7 x 5".

 

The titles of the color illustrations by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite published in Fairyland (1926) include:

  • "The Nightingale";
  • "Fairy Frolic";
  • "The Witch";
  • "The Three Bears";
  • "They kissed farewell at the château gate";
  • "Catching the moon on a rope of dewdrops";
  • "On moonlight nights they danced";
  • "Tossing up the rainbow bubbles";
  • "The Nautilus Fairy";
  • "The Glowlamp Fairy";
  • "The stood still in front of her";
  • "Knew that the Spark Sprite must be flying";
  • "The Butterfly Fairy";
  • "Serana's Wedding";
  • "The Shingle in Fairyland";
  • "The Revoke";
  • "The Fairy Ring";
  • "The Lost Playmate"; and
  • "The Crystal Gazer".

Fairyland (1926) was first published in by Ramsay Publishing Pty Ltd (Melbourne) - further international "First Editions" were published in the United States and the United Kingdom in the following years.

This bountiful publication was a collaborative effort involving Annie Rentoul (Ida's sister) who contributed verses, Grenbry Outhwaite (Ida's husband) who contributed stories and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite providing the gorgeous illustrations - including 16 full-color designs and 32 major monotone images.

Here we show a portion of 'Little Fairy Sisters' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Fairyland" (1926).
Here we show a portion of 'Little Fairy Sisters' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Fairyland" (1926).

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "Bunny and Brownie: The Adventures of George and Wiggle" (1930)

Here we show a portion of 'In and out among the snowdrops Fairies were dancing' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Bunny and Brownie: The Adventures of George and Wiggle" (1930).
Here we show a portion of 'In and out among the snowdrops Fairies were dancing' - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "Bunny and Brownie: The Adventures of George and Wiggle" (1930).

Bunny and Brownie: The Adventures of George and Wiggle (1930) was published by A & C Black, Ltd (London).

The tale was written and illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and recounts the whimsical Easter-related tale of Fairies and bunnies. Stylistically, the illustrations appear to be a significant departure from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's antipodean themes and a more European setting seems to have been adopted for the illustrations.

The artwork published in Bunny and Brownie: The Adventures of George and Wiggle (1930) included 8 full-color illustrations, in addition to 8 major monotone images.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's illustrations for "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1933)

Here we show a portion of "Sarsaparilla" - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1933).
Here we show a portion of "Sarsaparilla" - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1933).

A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933), with illustrations and verse contributed by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, was first published by Angus and Robertson Limited (Sydney) and included 6 tipped-in plates in addition to a further 15 major monotone images and further marginal monotone illustrations.

The substantial shift in stylistic and thematic focus apparent in A Bunch of Wild Flowers (1933) is a factor in the speculation that this work was an attempt by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - and her publishers - to capitalize on the success of Cecily M Barker in the latter part of the previous decade.

Here we show a portion of "Spider Orchid" - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1933).
Here we show a portion of "Spider Orchid" - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1933).

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite illustrations for "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1948)

Here we show a portion of "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1948).
Here we show a portion of "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" - it is from Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's suite published in "A Bunch of Wild Flowers" (1948).

A further effective First Edition of A Bunch of Wild Flowers appeared in 1948 with a variant that included color versions of each of the monotone designs shown in the 1933 Edition, in addition to a further design, "A Bunch of Wild Flowers", that had not appeared previously.

Is there a most popular suite of illustrations by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite?

Which suite of illustrations by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite is your favorite?

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