Henry Justice Ford
Who Was Henry J. Ford?
Henry Justice Ford was a very successful illustrator at the end of 19th and at the beginning of 20th century. Today he is mostly known for collaboration with Scottish editor, literary critic, and collector of folk tales Andrew Lang, who created so-called Colored Fairy Books, but he also contributed his talents to other works by Lang and other important literary names of his time. As many of his contemporaries, he also contributed to numerous magazines and was a portrait painter as well.
The quality of Ford's work, no matter if we are looking at pen and ink or watercolors, is astonishing, especially if we consider how much he did and how long he was active. In four decades of intensive work, he got a chance to illustrate hundreds of fairy tales, stories, legends, and fables. His style varied, but his ink work and sense for design stayed consistent with his initial preferences.
Essentially he was a romantic painter who liked to create sensual characters in dramatic settings and we'll check some of his finest examples.
(intro image from Violet Fairy Book, all used images are in Public Domain)
Short biography of H J Ford
Henry J. Ford was born in 1860 in London as one of seven (!) brothers. His father was a solicitor and his grandfather was also a solicitor and money lender. His family wasn't known by art, but cricket. Henry's father wrote several books on the subject and all seven brothers (including Henry, who was a member of J. M. Barrie's - yes, the author of Peter Pan - Allahakbarrie Cricket Club) played this popular game. The eldest brother William and the youngest Francis were among best players of their generation in the world.
Henry studied at Repton School, Clare College, Slade School of fine Art and Bushy School of Art. His first exhibitions in 1892 at royal Academy paved his way into historical scenes which soon culminated in the imaginary world of fairy tales with knights, maidens, dwarfs, witches, dragons and all sorts of monsters by which he achieved world recognition, although today he is unjustly almost unknown in comparison of his contemporary Arthur Rackham.
Henry was over sixty years old when he married for the first time with a woman more than half younger of his age. His wife Emily was a stage artist and already a widow (her husband was killed in a battle). Six years after the marriage they adopted a girl named Freda May Snowdown, but she was soon renamed to June Mary Magdalene).
Henry Justice died in 1941. His paintings can be found in many worlds known galleries, he portrayed many famous contemporaries, including royalties, but his major legacy is definitely a collection of books of fairy tales with which whole generations of children grew up. Many of these books (originals or reprints) are still in families and we can say his work made him immortal this way.
Where to buy Colored Fairy Books?
Literary history is full of charming books, but it's hard to find anything comparable to series of Andrew Lang's fairy books with hundreds of stories for children from all over the world. H. J. Ford's illustrations significantly contributed to their success and now they are considered as a very special treasure in many households.
Fortunately, they are all available for affordable price.
Everything started with the Blue Fairy Book, but on this page, you'll find links to all other books in the series (twelve altogether) as well.
Few words about Coloured Fairy Books
This is a collection of twelve volumes published between 1889 and 1910. Each book was named after one color (first was blue, next red, and so on to the last which was lilac). Most of the books were republished and several stories from different volumes were also published in special volumes, (for instance Rose Fairy Book), some well-known stories were published under less known names and many fairy tales were adapted for children, what in some cases resulted in shallower characters and less convincing plots.
Anyway, this collection made a huge impact and many editors and collectors followed Lang's example. This collection found the way to hundreds of thousands of homes and imaginative illustrations certainly helped to achieve that. Only free illustrators contributed to first editions of these twelve books of fairy tales and only H. J. Ford made drawings for all of them.
This was tremendous opportunity to lay his hands on a wide variety of fairy tales, from works by brothers Grimm, Madame d'Aulnoy, Charles Perrault and H. C. Andersen, fables from Arabian Nights to folktales of almost unknown tribes of Africa and American Indians.
Aquarels by H. J. Ford - Color plates from Arabian Nights EntertainmentsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Arabian Nights Entertainments, a collection of stories, told by Scheherazade to her husband who developed a nasty habit of killing his wives after the wedding night, is definitely one of Ford's masterpieces. More than sixty illustrations in pen and ink and four colored plates were published in a so-called crown edition by Longman in 1889.
Longman, a London-based publishing house (with seats in New York and Toronto too), published Coloured Fairy Books as well.
Inkwork by H. J. Ford - Selection from The Green Fairy BookClick thumbnail to view full-size
Henry Justice Ford's influences
H. J. Ford as he often signed his works, was influenced by some famous contemporaries, like Edward Bourne-Jones and Pre-Raphaelites, who all loved to portray sensuous ladies and produced many immortal portraits of real or fictitious characters, or Walter Crane, the master of design with incredible eye for details, who managed to fuse text and graphic material in unique results.
Edward Borne-Jones (1833-1899) was one of his best friends and same is true for James Matthew Barrie, the author of Peter Pan (Ford designed costumes for the premiere of Peter Pan theater show and draw a map Kensington Gardens). He was also friend with Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, who became famous thanks to stories about Jeeves and Wooster.
We can also say H. J. Ford influenced hundreds of artists all over the world who still create new fairy worlds for today's children and posterity as well.
He spent the last years of his life near Kensington Gardens
Which did you prefer?
If you like the subject, there are few addresses, where you can find more info, but I have to warn you - these trips can be really time-consuming:)
- Short presentations of best vintage illustrators
Ever illustrator is presented with only one image and few interesting facts from his or her life. Many famous and also almost unknown names with superb works!
- For all the lovers of vintage illustrations
Here are rules looser: sometimes a post is dedicated to one artist, sometimes to influential work which inspired many different creative minds and sometimes ... Well, you should really check for yourself.
- Black and white is beautiful (and dramatic)
Similar as the blog above, but only work in black and white technique can qualify. Posts are also not limited to work for children.
- Dobre stare slikanice
This blog is written in Slovene language and is all about the history of picture books for children. Even if yo don't understand the language, you can still enjoy in rich graphics.
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