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Fairy Tales Pictures

Updated on January 31, 2016
Anton Seder: litography with motifs from Cinderella
Anton Seder: litography with motifs from Cinderella | Source

Worth a thousand words?

Nowadays it's hard to imagine a book for children without a huge amount of graphic material. Well, two centuries ago, pictures were pretty rare thanks to their expense. There was a lot of manual work involved, pictures were colored by hand, pages with graphics often inserted among others one by one, materials were expensive, a number of printed copies low, ...

Picture books were done by very skillful artists and craftsmen and the procedure to print them was full of complications, so only the most powerful publishers dared to use them. In time, the investment proved as good, with an advance of photography prices dropped and in last decades of the 19th century we already experienced the so-called golden era of illustration.

This was a time of significant changes in the publishing industry. More and more artists specialized in the area of illustration (before that illustration was only unimportant part time job for painters), some illustrators became famous and their name actually started to help at sales and new standards for picture books were set.

Well, when picture books became a mass product and accessible to millions, the fame of some illustrators surpassed the fame of most known contemporary painters and they even started to sell numbered copies and signed originals on an auction like some kind of superstars!

All used images are in public domain. For more info read the end of the article.

Richard Doyle (1824-1883)

Jack The Giant Killer by Richard 'Dicky' doyle
Jack The Giant Killer by Richard 'Dicky' doyle

Dicky Doyle, as he was often called, was one of the best illustrators of his time. He was also a member of legendary Punch magazine.

Unfortunately, his working ethic was far from perfection. He was a chronic procrastinator who on one occasion excused himself for the delay on delivering his illustrations by 'he had no pencils'.

If this was not the case, we would probably enjoy more of his work, but it is what it is. Maybe just one more trivia from his biography: he was an uncle of the author of Sherlock Holmes. Yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was his nephew (son of his youngest surviving brother Charles)!

Actually, the whole family Doyle was extremely talented - Dicky's father John was a popular cartoonist, and all three surviving brothers James, Henry and Charles were illustrators as well.

Fairy Land by Dicky Doyle

The artistic area where Doyle particularly excelled were illustrations of the fairies and so-called little people. We should not forget he had Irish (by the father) roots and magical creatures were part of his blood inheritance.

Grimms' version of Cinderella illustrated by Elenore Abbott
Grimms' version of Cinderella illustrated by Elenore Abbott | Source

Elenore Plaisted Abbott (1875-1935)

This American artist belonged to so-called Art Nouveau style which got inspiration in nature. This means as a contrast to classic style with straight lines and very clear geometrical proportions tried to find inspiration in harmony and curves.

Art Nouveau eventually evolved in Modernism.

Elenore studied painting in USA, France and finally in the USA again. Her mentor was probably most influential American illustrator of all times Howard Pyle, sometimes called Father of American illustration.

Among her most important creations for children and young readers are stories by Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson and, as we can see in the picture, brothers Grimm.

Can you recognize the picture? It's from Cinderella, today less known version without a fairy. The girl still had a magic helper - a tree, growing on her mother's grave.

On the picture we can recognize Abbott's signature style with large undisturbed colored plates, fine curves melting into each other and many tiny details as birds or stars on this painting.

We can also notice her style was romantic but not too sentimental as that was the case at many of her contemporaries.

Importance of illustration in books for kids

What is more important? Graphics or text?

See results
The Beauty and the Beast as seen by Anne Anderson
The Beauty and the Beast as seen by Anne Anderson | Source

Anne Anderson (1874-193?)

This Scottish illustrator was one of the most productive artists in the area of publishing for children in her time. Being married to Alan Wright she had a sort of head start and they also collaborated on many projects.

He fell out of favor when he illustrated the wrong book at the wrong time and his commissions stopped coming, but at the same time, she started to work as hard as she could. His old connections probably still worked.

While we will never know how much of her early work was actually done by Anne and how much by Alan, we can safely presume in later years she did the majority of job and commissions were coming mainly thanks for her skills and professionalism.

Without a doubt, she was the one who was in charge in the house.

Did you know?

Illustration was one of the rare artistic areas where were women treated equally as men. Best of them earned huge amounts of money, comparable to best engineers or doctors.

Additional info

All presented images are in the public domain due the fact they were first published before 1923 and their authors are dead for more than 70 years. If you like vintage art, please check some of the links bellow:

Leonard Leslie Brooke (1862-1940)

Three Little Pigs, illustration by L. Leslie Brooke
Three Little Pigs, illustration by L. Leslie Brooke | Source

Brooke is another British illustrator from the golden era. While his most known creation is, of course, Johnny Crow, he also illustrated many classic works from the bookshelf for kids.

The illustration above is from his book where he retold (in words and pictures) a classic tale about the Three Little Pigs. We have to mention his illustrations of popular nursery rhymes as well.

Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)

He is probably the most influential illustrator of the 20th century. Even illustrators from Disney company admitted they designed dwarfs in snow White by his mythological creatures.

Although a late bloomer Rackham was in top demand for decades and his originals were sold extremely well together with signed and numbered luxury editions with the most popular fairy tales and legends.

Here is an overview of his work on Alice in Wonderland, a classic work which majority of illustrators only dream of being able to illustrate.

Just like most of the before mentioned artists, he loved fictional beings, like dwarfs, elves, wizards, ... Apart from that, we can add his ability to add life and personality to otherwise less interesting parts of illustrations.

In his case, he especially excelled at drawings of trees, which were full of life and often resembled people in different grotesque poses.

Which one is you favorite? - Can you recommend another name?

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      4 years ago from Ljubljana

      @WriterJanis2: I believe you:)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      4 years ago

      I can't pick just one.


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