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Vintage French Illustrators, part 2

Updated on February 3, 2016
Tom Thumb, illustration by Frederic Theodore Lix
Tom Thumb, illustration by Frederic Theodore Lix

Famous painters and illustrators of picture books from France

French illustrators made a great impact on the history of picture books. As in other countries, most of them started their careers as painters and slowly specialized in other artistic areas as caricature and illustration. These part of visual arts was for decades less appreciated but at the turn of the 19th to the 20th-century things started to change in favor of quality illustration.

Knowing France is an official homeland of fairy tales as a literary genre, we can rightly expect some superb works accompanying literature for children, youth and adults. We have already presented some of the most popular French illustrators from times when a picture book as a specific media was born.

In this article, we'll try to present several not so known, but still important and influential names to get the feeling how this important genre started and evolved.

(All used images are in public domain)

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Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, written by Charles Perrault
Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, written by Charles Perrault

Frederic Theodore Lix (1830-1897)

Often signed only as T. Lix was a very successful painter of portraits, landscapes (Alsatia, where he was born, was his favorite subject), religious and historical scenes.

All serious painters in the 19th century tried to focus mainly on huge dramatic scenery which seemed the best way to get exhibitions where they could sell examples of their work and got commissions for different profitable projects.

Most of them gradually developed special skills by which they were distinguished from others and Lix was a fine example of this practice.

He was also a lithographer and illustrator. Both pictures above come from Charles Perrault's Tales From Mother Goose.

Don't forget this version of a fairy tale doesn't stop with a prince's kiss. After the marriage, it actually only starts. The rescuer has a man-eating ogress as a mother in law and he tries to hide the Sleeping Beauty until she became a mother of two kids ...

Louis Morin (1855-1938)

Picture from Fontaine's book of poetry
Picture from Fontaine's book of poetry

We have already mentioned how an artist had to adapt to circumstances on the market and Morin was no exception. He was not only a great painter and cartoonist, he also founded Society of Cartoonists. Mural paintings were among his additional fields of work. Another interesting part was the comedy, where he excelled as a perforer.

Although he never worked as children illustrator, I managed to found an image from the poetry book written by another giant of French literature: Jean de La Fontaine. We are all familiar with Fontaine's collections of fables, even if we don't always realize he was an author, and of course, these fables were always accompanied with illustrations by the best artists of the time.

Fleury Francois Richard (1777-1852)

Scene from Little Red Cap
Scene from Little Red Cap | Source

Fleury-Richard, as he was sometimes called, was born in Lyon and his style is a bit different than the artistic style of Parisian painters. With more sentiment and less drama, he is considered as one of the founders of a so-called Troubador style. Italy was one of his favourite inspirational locations.

His early works were extremely popular among the nobility (and opened him the doors to most prestigious galleries all over the Europe). The painting above, for instance, is hanging in Louvre. Empress Josephine de Beauharnais and Madame de Stale were two of his biggest supporters. He was benighted in 1815.

As an addition to the painting Richard wrote several works about paintings and painters. While symbolism didn't exist in his time, he is today also known as a symbolist because he believed the painting should not be a mere portrait of reality but more the image of artist's thought.

1001 Arabian Nights
1001 Arabian Nights

Leon Georges Jean-Baptiste Carre (1878-1942)

Leon Carre is one of many painters from his generation who after formal studies spend few years in North Africa as a generation before honed painting skills in Italy and Germany.

Carre was enchanted with scenery and became an Orientalist. Paintings inspired by Arabian Nights are probably most important part of his legacy which is also known by tarot cards, a popular collectors' item. By the way, he was two times winner of prestigious Chenavard prize.

Are you looking for a perfect collectible gift?

Jacques Marie Gaston Onfroy de Breville, more known simply as a JOB, illustrated this successful book which portrayed Napoleon and his time as one of the most important times in the history of France.

Napoléon
Napoléon

This book was awarded as one of THE BEST books of the year. It is very easy to see why.

We are dealing with a high quality work by one of the best artists of his time, it is a superb replica of original edition from 1910 and makes a perfect gift for children (with exquisite taste, of course) and their parents as well.

In my personal opinion it makes one of the best possible high value gifts for every collector of vintage picture books.

 
Illustration from ABC book of fables and fairy tales
Illustration from ABC book of fables and fairy tales

Jacques Marie Gaston Onfroy de Breville (1858-1931)

This artist is mostly known by the pseudonym Job, made from initials of his full name.

Today he is praised as one of the founders of illustration for kids as specific artistic genre with is own set of rules

Although he had found his way to famous Salon, his 'serious' paintings were received with mixed feelings, so he started to contribute cartoons and caricatures to newspapers and magazines.

We can say he achieved real success with his children illustrations, especially spectacular portraits of heroes of French history.

His picture books of Napoleon and Murat made him so famous even American publishers hired him for portraying George Washington.

As an addition to this work, he also illustrated several famous classics (Gulliver's Travels, for instance) and educational works (as an illustration from ABC book of tales on the left).

Who is your favorite?

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More on the subject

If you are looking for an additional info, here is a short, but info-packed list of interesting places where you might start ...

Can you recommend another important name from the history of French illustration?

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image
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      Tolovaj Publishing House 3 years ago from Ljubljana

      @WriterJanis2: Well, I'll try to find few more... Thanks for stopping by!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      As always, this work is brilliant. Unfortunately, I cannot name another French illustrator.