The Abducted Girl in Anti-Roma Imagery

This is the first of two articles on the use of the girl image in anti-Roma racism. Here I will describe the hundreds of years old accusation that Roma steal non-Roma children. In the next one, I will discuss in depth the case of the “blond angel” in 2013, when the presence of a blond little girl in a Roma camp led to the claim by both police and media that she had been abducted from a non-Roma family.

Note: Following European usage, I use the singular noun Rom and the plural noun and adjective Roma to designate people of this ethnicity, while the adjective Romani will designate the corresponding culture and language. There are also ethnic Roma subgroups carrying specific names: Sinti, Kale, Manush, Romanichal, etc. However well-known designations such as “Gypsy” or “Tzigane” / “Gitano” should be avoided, as they usually carry cultural and literary stereotypes.

The Roma people originated from India and migrated into Europe during the Middle Ages. For a long time it was thought that they came from Egypt, as illustrated by the novel Isabel of Egypt, first youth love of emperor Charles V written by the German romantic Achim von Arnim in 1812 (imagining a brief love affair between the Holy German Emperor and the daughter of the leader of the Roma people); indeed the word “Gypsy” comes from “Egyptian.” On the other hand designations such as “Tzigane” or “Gitano” come from the medieval Greek Atsinganos, meaning “untouchable.”

Roma were enslaved in Romania until the middle of the 19th century. In Western Europe, they have been persecuted since the 15th century, first accused of being Turks, or Turkish spies, then of being criminals. Over and over, laws and ordinances were enacted to prevent them from settling down, with various penalties for offenders: deportation, forced labour, flogging, mutilation, execution or their children to be taken away. In 1721, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI ordered the execution of all Roma adults, while children were “to be put in hospitals for education.”

Being always expelled from one place to another led the Roma people to a life of forced nomadism (similarly, during periods of persecution, Jews often moved from one town to another); from that comes the image of Gypsies living in caravans. While Jews were generally emancipated throughout Western Europe during the 19th century, the same did not happen for Roma, who were considered “born criminals.” The persecution culminated in the Nazi genocide that targeted both Jews and Roma for systematic extermination; the number of Roma victims is estimated between half and one and a half million. This genocide has been called Samudaripen (meaning “mass killing”) or Porajmos / Porrajmos / Pharrajimos (meaning “devouring” or “destruction”).

Sinti / Roma children victims of Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Sinti / Roma children victims of Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Literary depiction of Roma shows two apparently contradicting aspects. On the one hand they are presented as criminals on the dark side of humanity. For instance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire Count is transported by savage Gypsies. On the other hand the word “Gypsy” suggests a free and careless life made of travel but no hard work, with picturesque customs, clothing, singing and dance, as well as alluring and liberated women, such as Esmeralda in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, or Carmen in Prosper Mérimée’s novella and the opera by Georges Bizet derived from it. A similar dual racist stereotype holds for African-Americans, seen both as criminals and as people endowed with a very potent sexuality.

Minorities seen as dangerous are generally presented as posing a threat to children. For instance in medieval Europe, Jews were accused of killing Christian children in order to use their blood in the making of unleavened bread for Passover. Now it has been repeated over and over that Roma abduct non-Roma children. Often the abducted child is a girl, as a symbol of helplessness.

Miguel de Cervantes - La Gitanilla (book covers)

Miguel de Cervantes – La Gitanilla (book covers)

The accusation already appears in La Gitanilla (The Little Gypsy Girl), the first novella contained in the Novelas Ejemplares (The Exemplary Novels), the collection of short stories written by Miguel de Cervantes between 1590 and 1612. La Gitanilla is the story of a 15-year-old gypsy girl named Preciosa, who is said to be talented, extremely beautiful, and wise beyond her years. A Spanish nobleman falls in love with her, and after many peripeties, it is revealed that Preciosa is the daughter of a magistrate, Don Fernando de Acevedo, knight of the order of Calatrava; Preciosa’s Roma grandmother confesses to having kidnapped her as a young child and raised her as her own granddaughter. Notice the link between the qualities of Preciosa (talented, beautiful and wise) and the fact that she has been abducted, hinting that Roma as an inferior race could not have such qualities themselves; also in many book covers, Preciosa is shown having blond hair.

I searched the French illustrated “popular” press of the early 20th century for illustrations of anti-Roma racism. Les Faits-Divers Illustrés was a weekly published between 1905 and 1910, with a peculiar taste for the most horrendous crimes and the worst catastrophes. Part of the collection has been digitized by Gallica, and I downloaded there the following image (also found on Wikimedia Commons):

Les Faits-Divers Illustrés, no. 164 (10 December 1908) - Romanichels voleurs d'enfants : Une mère défend sa fille

Les Faits-Divers Illustrés, no. 164 (10 December 1908) – Romanichels voleurs d’enfants : Une mère défend sa fille

The caption translates as “Gypsies child thieves: a mother defends her daughter.” I have transcribed the corresponding article here. It tells that one morning, as gypsies had left a small town, a mother noticed the disappearance of her 3-year-old daughter.  She alerted people around her, then thought about the departed gypsies. Armed with a pole, she ran after them and saw her daughter at the front of a caravan. She snatched her and fought off the gypsies with the pole. Meanwhile, townspeople who had followed her arrived, accompanied by policemen; the latter had to use their authority to prevent people from lynching the gypsies.

Le Petit Journal was a daily published between 1863 and 1944. Politically, it was republican (in the French sense), conservative and nationalist; in 1937 it became the mouthpiece of a fascist party. Between 1884 and 1937 it published an illustrated weekly supplement. Part of the collection of the weekly supplement has been digitized by Gallica, and the website Cent.ans has an almost complete collection of the front and back covers between 1890 and 1930, often with a transcription of the corresponding articles.

The first image, downloaded from Gallica, can also be found—with different colours and contrast—on Cent.ans and on Wikimedia Commons (where it is credited to the Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg). The caption translates as “Child abducted by nomads.” I have transcribed the corresponding article here. Antoinette Mirguet, a 10-year-old girl, was going to school, when she was called from a caravan. As soon as she entered it, the man made the horse start. She screamed, but she was threatened with a knife. Approaching the German border, a brave vine grower heard the girl’s screams, and he warned the nomads that he would split their heads with his spade if they did not release their prisoner. Intimidated, they released her, and her savior could bring her back to her parents.

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 585 (2 February 1902) - Enfant enlevée par des nomades

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 585 (2 February 1902) – Enfant enlevée par des nomades

This second image, also downloaded from Gallica, can be found on Cent.ans with the transcription of the corresponding article. Calling for an “energetic law” against vagrants, it tells how a gang of nomads assaulted a 11-year-old girl who was going back home from school, taking her to a caravan. But she resisted bitterly and screamed desperately, so that the Roma had to abandon her and flee.

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 1082 (13 August 1911) - Fillette enlevée par des bohémiens

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 1082 (13 August 1911) – Fillette enlevée par des bohémiens

This third image comes from Cent.ans. I do not have the corresponding article. The caption, titled “A caravan went by…”, tells that a 9-year-old girl was playing when she was abducted by a Rom, tied up and gagged, then brought into his caravan, which departed. But the child managed to escape.

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1675 (28 January 1923) - Une roulotte passa...

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1675 (28 January 1923) – Une roulotte passa…

In this collection I also found several images about Roma girls, with a quite different tone. The following one comes from Cent.ans. I do not have the corresponding article. The caption tells that a little Roma girl was going to her parents’ caravan with a basket full of fish. Then wild cats, attracted by the smell, attacked her and disfigured her. Readers will notice that no mention is made about rescuing her.

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1656 (17 September 1922) - Attaquée par des chats affamés

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1656 (17 September 1922) – Attaquée par des chats affamés

The next image, downloaded from Gallica, illustrates the theme of Roma teenagers being precocious criminals: “A farmer woman attacked by Roma.” The corresponding article (with the image) is found on Cent.ans. It says that two “impudent daughters of Bohemia,” “Roma of pure race,” were begging for food. As the farmer woman said she had no food to give them, they assaulted her. Her screams attracted her husband and a hunter. The two Roma escaped but were afterwards arrested and jailed. They were aged 15 and 17. The article ends by calling on the State to address the “scourge” of people without regular home or employment.

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 782 (12 November 1905) - Une fermière attaquée par des bohémiennes

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 782 (12 November 1905) – Une fermière attaquée par des bohémiennes

There is also an image and an article (in No. 877 dated 8 September 1907) about Roma releasing a bear in a sheep enclosure, together with a longer one about the origin and customs of the Roma people, repeating the usual stereotypes mixing the fascination for their picturesque life with their labeling as “lazy” and “born criminal”.

The child abduction libel against Roma is also found in “children’s songs” or “nursery rhymes,” which were told to children to warn them against approaching Roma. The following one is famous in the English-speaking world:

My Mother Said… (Anonymous “Children’s Song”)

My Mother said, I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood.
If I did, she would say;
‘Naughty girl to disobey!

Your hair shan’t curl and your shoes shan’t shine,
You gypsy girl, you shan’t be mine!’
And my father said that if I did,
He’d rap my head with the teapot lid.

My mother said that I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood.
The wood was dark, the grass was green;
By came Sally with a tambourine.

I went to sea – no ship to get across;
I paid ten shillings for a blind white horse.
I upped on his back and was off in a crack,
Sally tell my mother I shall never come back.

These accusations repeated for centuries rest on nothing. Thomas Acton, Emeritus Professor of Romani Studies, University of Greenwich, clearly stated: “I know of no documented case of Roma / Gypsies / Travellers stealing non-Gypsy children anywhere.” In a letter to Dennis Marlock dated August 2nd, 1990 (quoted by Ian Hancock), he wrote:

Compared with the massive record of murder, theft, kidnapping and other crimes by non-Gypsies against Gypsies throughout history, Gypsy crime against non-Gypsies pales almost into insignificance, so that to prioritize the study of the latter over the former shows a twisted sense of values.

To finish, readers who want to learn more about the history of the persecution of Roma in Europe, can watch the Holocaust Living History Workshop video Porrajmos: The Romani and the Holocaust with Ian Hancock, produced by University of California Television.

A Little Girl’s Guide to Personality: Avril Podmore

Among the items in Stuart’s extensive private collection are items that were never published, but are nonetheless interesting. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to publish things like this that would ordinarily never see the light of day.

This little book of drawings was made by a little girl from the ages of 8 to 10. There were a total of 30 images in the book, but these were a few of the interesting examples sent to me. It is so touching to see a young person putting so much effort into something like this.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920--1922)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920–1922)

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (1)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (1)

It is remarkable how easily a child assimilates the stereotypes of her culture. This would be considered politically incorrect today and there is some speculation that this particular stereotype was, in part, devised to keep Black people “in their place”.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (2)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (2)

Another personality type that I’m sure many girls can relate to is this compulsively proper type. Sure, she seems to miss out on all the fun but what’s worse: she tends to grow up and make life miserable for everyone else.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (3)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (3)

And even in the dreary winter, a girl can use fantasy to make things more cheery.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (4)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (4)

If a more suitable dance partner is not available, Teddy will do.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (5)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (5)

A Slightly Different Take on the Pin-Up: Edward D’Ancona

From roughly the late Victorian era to the early 1960s there was a pop art phenomenon known as pin-up art.  These could be paintings, illustrations or photos.  The images were generally very simple representations of attractive women, often scantily clad or even nude, and posed erotically. Obviously these were aimed at men and adolescent boys and were intended to be pinned up in clubhouses, garages and the like (hence the name). Among the more prominent artists in this field were Alberto Vargas, Art Frahm, Gil Elvgren and George Petty, but a ton of artists produced pin-up art, some of them quite skillful. Among them was one Edward D’Ancona.

Not much is known about D’Ancona.  The bulk of his work as a pin-up artist was produced from the mid ’30s till the end of the ’50s, after which he apparently switched to more family-friendly fare, though not much of this later work seems to exist anymore, at least not on the web.  One piece that was, however, is presented below.  What’s particularly interesting about this painting is that “Miss Me” has the attention of everyone she passes, including the dog.  The policeman, meanwhile, looks to be directing sidewalk traffic, stopping the boy on the bicycle so that the little girl may pass by.

The boy himself is almost stunned by the sight of the girl, who flaunts her beauty as if she were born to it.  We can easily imagine this child growing up to become one of D’Ancona’s pin-up models.  Even at this tender age she recognizes the power that femininity has over males and attempts to assert her own premature version of it, arguably with some success.  One can argue that D’Ancona is presenting this situation as fairly harmless; this was made in the 1950s after all, well before the pedophile panic set in.  The girl may have a certain power over little boys, but the policeman simply finds her funny.  Or does he?  Is that a smirk of simple amusement on his face or something less innocent?  And what of the dog, who literally bows at her feet?  What exactly is D’Ancona attempting to say with this piece?  I wonder.

It raises some interesting questions, I think.  Such as, is there some subconscious level on which every adult recognizes the largely dormant (but by no means nonexistent) sexuality of children, and if so, do they use certain psychological techniques to deny it to themselves?  I think this is, indeed, the case.  One of those techniques is to laugh it off, to present children’s sexuality as ridiculous and inept, and in the hands of another artist (Norman Rockwell, for example) this same scene would’ve presented the girl as more of a caricature.  I’ve never been much of a Rockwell fan, incidentally.  But because D’Ancona’s style is more realistic than Rockwell’s, it may have backfired.  If he intended this scene as satirical, I think he failed.  But maybe he was simply unaware of what this piece might say to a 21st century audience, who is all too aware of, and acutely sensitive to, the sexual exploitation of children.  This seems more likely.  Today we know about the darker aspects of the beauty pageant world, and how our culture, whether deliberately or not, suggests to girls from an early age that their physical attractiveness is their most important asset.  D’Ancona, more than likely, saw nothing untoward in this scene, and I would be hard pressed to argue he was wrong.  But it does go to show how a changing society can recast old art in a new context.

Edward D'Ancona - Miss Me

Edward D’Ancona – Miss Me

You can see plenty of examples of D’Ancona’s pin-up art here (from which this piece was taken) and here.  The second site also has some additional biographical information on the artist.



Creator of the Flower Fairies: Cicely Mary Barker

Cicely Mary Barker (1895–1973) was born on 28 June, 1895 in Croyden, England, to Walter Barker and Mary Eleanor Barker. As a child she suffered from epilepsy so her parents thought it would be safer for her to be home-schooled by a governess. She spent a lot of her time drawing and painting and her father decided to pay for a correspondence course in art which she continued until at least 1919. He also enrolled her in evening classes with the Croyden School of Art in 1908, which she attended until the 1940s and eventually became a teacher there.

Cicely’s parents noticed the quality of her drawings—that they might be good enough for publishing—so they took examples to publishers and printers. The artist’s first published works appeared in 1911 when Raphael Tuck, the printer, bought four drawings and turned them into postcards. In October 1911 she won second prize in a poster competition run by the Croydon Art Society, and shortly after was elected the youngest member of the Society.

After her father’s untimely death in 1912, her older sister, Dorothy, tried to support the family by teaching in private schools then opening a kindergarten at home. The artist also contributed to the finances of her family by selling poetry and illustrations to magazines such as My Magazine, Child’s Own and Raphael Tuck annuals. Additionally, she exhibited and sold work at the Croydon Art Society and at the Royal Institute. She also designed postcards for various printing firms.

Cicely Mary Barker - Because He Came... (date unknown)

Cicely Mary Barker – Because He Came… (date unknown)

After approaching several publishers. Cicely’s first book was accepted by Blackie and published in 1923. Entitled Flower Fairies of the Spring, the book contained watercolour paintings with pen and ink outlines of fairies situated in idyllic settings with each image accompanied by a small song. As fairies were popular at this time the book sold well and also received many positive reviews, consequently over the next thirty-two years another nine flower fairy books were produced.

Cicely Mary Barker - A Flower Fairy Alphabet (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – A Flower Fairy Alphabet (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker - Flower Fairies of the Wayside (1948)

Cicely Mary Barker – Flower Fairies of the Wayside (1948)

Though she is most often remembered for her flower fairies, they are far from the only books she produced. During the 1920s the artist also created images and wrote some of the songs for several books of songs and verse.

Cicely Mary Barker - Old Rhymes For All Times (1928)

Cicely Mary Barker – Old Rhymes For All Times (1928)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Children’s Book of Hymns (1929)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Children’s Book of Hymns (1929)

She was also an author of three stories with the first, The Lord of the Rushie River, published in 1938. As the book sold well, Blackie requested that she write another and Groundsel and Necklaces was published in 1946 and later renamed Fairy Necklaces when it was re-released in 1991. The third book she wrote was Simon the Swan which was completed in 1953, however Blackie ignored the book and it was not until 1988, fifteen years after the author death, that it got published. The paintings in these three stories differed from the flower fairy images as they were painted with either pastel or oil paint.

Cicely Mary Barker - Groundsel and Necklaces (1946)

Cicely Mary Barker – Groundsel and Necklaces (1946)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Lord of the Rushie River (1938)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Lord of the Rushie River (1938)

The artist was a devout Christian and produced many illustrations for Christian themed books and postcards. She also donated works to churches either for resale or display and I am showing one of her most recognised paintings The Parable of the Great Supper produced for St. George’s Church, Waddon.

Cicely Mary Barker - The Parable of the Great Supper (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Parable of the Great Supper (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker - The Parable of the Great Supper detail (1934)

Cicely Mary Barker – The Parable of the Great Supper detail (1934)

The painting that hangs in the church is a triptych. The larger centre panel is entitled ‘The Great Supper’ and illustrates one of Jesus’ parables where ordinary people are brought in from the highways and byways to share in a great king’s feast, symbolising the inclusive spirit of Christianity. The two smaller side panels show St John the Baptist and Saint George.

The artist’s work slowed down in the 1950s, as she was teaching art at this time, then in 1954 her sister died so she became solely responsible for the care of her mother. The royalties from her books largely supported their life and occasionally she would do portrait commissions for extra money. When her mother died in 1960 Cicely’s health started to fail and she passed away in 1973.

Cicely Mary Barker - Portrait of Ianthe Barker (1951)

Cicely Mary Barker – Portrait of Ianthe Barker (1951)

Cicely Mary Barker - He Leadeth Me (1936)

Cicely Mary Barker – He Leadeth Me (1936)

Cicely Mary Barker - Flower Fairies of the Trees (1940)

Cicely Mary Barker – Flower Fairies of the Trees (1940)

The artist’s style was largely influenced by Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott as their books were popular during her childhood so she would have spent a lot of time reading them. She was also influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites Sir John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones. She admired them as they painted directly from nature and they could depict flora and fauna with near exactitude. The artist achieved her own botanical accuracy by referring to botanical books or having staff from Kew Gardens bring her specimens to paint. All the people featured in her images were real and were sourced from her sister’s kindergarten or were local villagers. She also had a habit of carrying a sketchbook with her and would quickly sketch any interesting child she saw while in public places. The costumes that the children wear were also created by her and after the painting was completed the fabric was recycled into new costumes.

In 1989, Frederick Warne, a division of Penguin Books, acquired the Flower Fairies properties and turned it into the commercial behemoth it is today. Half of the artist’s books were re-released in the 1980s and ’90s and you can buy flower fairy quilts, linen, fabric, stationary, figurines and many other products.

If you would like to see some of her religious works there are some images in this Flickr account and two articles, one at The Croydon Citizen and another at the Inside Croyden Blog.

The Welsh Pixie: Pixie O’Harris

Pixie O’Harris MBE (1903–1991) was born Rhona Olive Harris in Cardiff, Wales. She was the sixth of nine children born to portraitist George Frederick Harris and Rosetta Elizabeth Harris (née Lucas). It was her father, who was chairman of the Art Society of South Wales and a frequent exhibitor at both the Royal Academy and Walker Art Gallery, that encouraged her and her siblings to take up art as a hobby. The artist became a member of the Royal Art Society of South Wales and started to exhibit her work there from the age of fourteen. At the time, she was still signing with her birth name of Rhona Harris.

Rhona O. Harris - (Untitled Illustration) (1919)

Rhona O. Harris – (Untitled Illustration) (1919)

The artist’s family emigrated to Australia in 1920 and while en route to Perth she was frequently called “The Welsh Pixie.” Having a dislike for the name Rhona and thinking that a new name would go well with a new life, she changed her name to Pixie O. Harris. After arriving in Perth, she found temporary employment in an advertising agency colouring slides and drawing fashions. During her spare time, she continued to draw and took some drawings to local art galleries. The Perth Royal Art Society recognised her talent and allowed her to hang some of her drawings in the gallery.

After only six months in Perth, the family relocated to Maroubra, in Sydney, by which time the artist had amassed a large number of drawings. She took her drawings to the editor of the Sydney Mail magazine, produced by the Sydney Morning Herald, who paid forty pounds for thirty of the images.  Reportedly, a printer at the magazine saw the artist’s signature and mentioned, “You can’t have a name like that without an apostrophe after the O.”  The printer then added the apostrophe and Pixie O. Harris became Pixie O’Harris. While on a trip to Sydney she became friendly with a man whose father had contacts with people working at John Sands, a printing firm. The firm liked her drawings, hired her and she started producing advertisements. In order to improve her artistic skill, her employers decided to send her to the Julian Ashton Art School, paying her tuition. During this time she was also producing book plates.

After a year at this job, O’Harris quit and joined her father at his studio. As she was now well known, she freelanced for various magazines including The Triad, Green Room and The Bulletin. She also drew illustrations for theatre programs, comics for joke blocks and continued to accept commissions for advertisements.

Pixie O'Harris - Advertisement for OK Pure Jam (1923)

Pixie O’Harris – Advertisement for OK Pure Jam (1923)

Her first assignment to illustrate a book was Cinderella’s Party by Maud Renner, published by Rigby in 1922 for which she was paid two guineas per image. Two years later she was asked to illustrate The Lost Emerald by Agnes Littlejohn.

Pixie O'Harris - Cinderella's Party (1922)

Pixie O’Harris – Cinderella’s Party (1922)

Her father’s death in 1924 had such an unsettling effect on the artist that she decided to leave the city and ended up in the Burragorang Valley. There the artist spent many days perfecting her skills at drawing flora and fauna.

Pixie O'Harris - Pixie O'Harris Story Book (1940)

Pixie O’Harris – Pixie O’Harris Story Book (1940)

Upon returning to Sydney, the editor of The Triad commissioned her to caricature well-known personalities which took up most of the year and became some of her most recognised work.

In 1925 the artist published The Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book which was a book of short stories and verses interspersed with illustrations which became one of her most popular books.

po'h fairy book

Pixie O’Harris – Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book (1925) (1)

Pixie O'Harris - Pixie O'Harris Fairy Book (1925) (2)

Pixie O’Harris – Pixie O’Harris Fairy Book (1925) (2)

After finishing her work on the book, she continued her freelance work at The Triad where she drew images for the children’s pages as well as an occasional cover. However, the artist believed this position lacked security and decided to become a fashion artist for the Horden Brothers Department Store. She developed a different drawing style at that job and it helped refine her drawing of adults.  Prior to this, a lot of her images featured children or toddlers so some of the adults ended up with a childlike appearance. She continued with this job for three years.  It was during this period that she met a wool buyer named Bruce Pratt and married in 1928, initially quitting her jobs to stay at home. She subsequently gave birth to three daughters.

During the Depression in Australia, she rented an office in the city and set up an art studio. Her sister, Pat, was employed as her errand girl and occasionally collaborated with her on contracts. The enterprise prospered and soon the artist was working for the Woman’s Weekly and New Nation magazines. All the while she was still doing fashion work for Horden Brothers. Also notable during this period were the several colour covers produced for Woman’s Budget magazine and the caricature-based drawings for their series “Pictures of the Near Great” published weekly.

Pixie O'Harris - Woman's Budget (Cover) (1933)

Pixie O’Harris – Woman’s Budget (Cover) (1933)

With all these commissions coming in, O’Harris’ artistic ability became a mainstay in the commercial arts. In 1934 she received another commission to illustrate her fourth book, Hundreds and Thousands by Ruth Bedford. She enjoyed this work and so started work on the book Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935), a story about two rock sprites. The book sold well and was reprinted four times.

Pixie O'Harris - Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (1)

Pixie O’Harris – Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (1)

Pixie O'Harris - Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (2)

Pixie O’Harris – Pearl Pixie and Sea Greenie (1935) (2)

The success of this book drew the attention of other publishers and she spent most of the next year drawing images for four other books, all coming out in 1936. There is scant information about O’Harris’ life after this point. There were only two books featuring her work in the period between 1938 and 1939. The most likely reason she was kept occupied editing for Humour magazine. While lying in the hospital ward during the birth of her third child in 1939, she came up with the idea of painting hospital walls with murals. The joy of decorating the walls of children’s wards, baby health centres and schools continued for forty years and must have created the largest body of public works in Australia with over forty institutes decorated.

In addition to painting murals—in the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children—four books illustrated by the artist were published in 1940. One of these books, The Pixie O’Harris Story Book, was also written. The Adventures of Poppy Treloar was published in 1941 and is significant in that it was a story specifically for girls. At this time there were few books for girls and with three daughters, the artist noticed this shortcoming and filled the gap with three Poppy Treloar books. A fourth book was added 22 years later when the publishers, Paul Hamlyn, decided to release the books in a box set. In 1943 she started another book series about a possum named Marmaduke. The first book was Marmaduke the Possum, with an additional two following. Marmaduke became a play in 1960; the producer was Julie Simpson who read the book as a child and was so entranced by it that she became determined to produce it as a play. Julie found O’Harris who agreed with her ideas. Within a few weeks the artist had written the whole play, designed the costumes, masks and the backdrops. The play ran for five weeks during the Christmas holiday period of 1960/61. She wrote a second play in 1979 called The Queen of Hearts, Paddy and The Moon Lady.

Pixie O'Harris - Marmaduke and Margaret (1953)

Pixie O’Harris – Marmaduke and Margaret (1953)

Another important book written by O’Harris was The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly. The book became very popular and was reprinted five times.

Pixie O'Harris - The Fairy Who Wouldn't Fly (Cover) (1945)

Pixie O’Harris – The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (Cover) (1945)

Pixie O'Harris - The Fairy Who Wouldn't Fly (1945)

Pixie O’Harris – The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (1945)

From 1950 through to 1970 she focused on her mural work as well as writing short stories, poems and then making the images to go with them for School Magazine. When not doing this work she took up oil painting and accumulated such a quantity that she was able to exhibit them yearly from 1964 onward. Her paintings depicted plants, flowers, fairies and other mythological beings.

A resurgence of interest in her work took place in the 1970s as three of her books were republished. This renewed interest led to Golden Books Publishing giving her contracts to write eight more books for them between 1978 and 1982. The books were cheaply produced so do not show her work to a very high quality, though the consumers did not care and large numbers were nonetheless sold. During the 1980s, two biographies were published and she also illustrated an edition of Wind in the Willows. 

Her final commission came in 1990. The book was Alice in Wonderland, also known as The Pixie Alice, published by The Carroll Foundation. It was part of the 125th anniversary of the publishing of the original Macmillan publication. The book itself was designed to be a colouring book. The complete text to the original story was there with fourteen simply-drawn black and white illustrations.

Pixie O'Harris - Alice in Wonderland (Cover) (1990)

Pixie O’Harris – Alice in Wonderland (Cover) (1990)

Pixie O'Harris - Alice in Wonderland (1990)

Pixie O’Harris – Alice in Wonderland (1990)

A year later in 1991 Pixie O’Harris passed away. In 1994 the Children’s Publishing Committee of the Australian Publishers’ Association (APA) established the Pixie O’Harris Award. It is awarded for distinguished and dedicated service to the development and reputation of Australian children’s books. The guidelines state that:

To be eligible, publishers, editors, booksellers and publicists need to have worked consistently in children’s literature, demonstrated a commitment beyond the call of duty and developed a reputation for their contribution to the industry. -APA

In recognition for her work in the arts as well as the painting of murals for children, O’Harris received several awards, a Coronation Medal, a Jubilee Medal and became a Member of the British Empire in 1976. She was made a Patron of The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in 1977.

Pixie O'Harris - The Little Round House (1939)

Pixie O’Harris – The Little Round House (1939)

The house that Beckons

Pixie O’Harris – The House that Beckons (1940)

Creator of Sarah Kay: Vivien Kubbos

Researching illustrators of children’s books can sometimes be a challenging task. Many are freelance workers so they may only illustrate a small number of books as well as doing other illustrating jobs. Combine that with the fact that some books don’t mention the illustrator and so using WorldCat or any other cataloging site is rather useless. One example is Vivien Kubbos. Another complicating factor about Vivien is the fact that she does not desire fame or attention and therefore does not have a website or do any interviews. Vivien Kubbos could have been famous as she was the originator of the Sarah Kay Collection.

Vivien Kubbos - (Untitled illustration) (c1970's) (1)

Vivien Kubbos – (Untitled illustration) (1970s) (1)

Vivien Kubbos - (Untitled illustration) (c1970's) (2)

Vivien Kubbos – (Untitled illustration) (1970s) (2)

The Sarah Kay Collection was started by Valentine Publishing in the early 1970s and quickly became popular among girls throughout Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe and Latin America. Sarah Kay illustrations were featured mostly on greeting cards, swap cards and postcards. Sarah Kay fell out of fashion in the 1990s; however this only lasted until 2005 when she relaunched, presumably with new illustrators doing the work. The thing I find adorable and gorgeous about Sarah Kay images are they are the complete antithesis of the ideas pushed on children in our current society. The girls in these images do not worry about what they wear and if they get holes in their clothes—they simply repair them with patches. There is no obsession with shoes either: the children are currently wearing none and back in the 1970s and ’80s they wore thick leather shoes, sandals or sneakers. The idyllic imagery also adds to the illustrations’ appeal. Sarah Kay merchandise can still be purchased on their website.

Vivien Kubbos - (Untitled illustration) (c1970's) (3)

Vivien Kubbos – (Untitled illustration) (1970s) (3)

Vivien Kubbos - (Untitled illustration) (c1970's) (4)

Vivien Kubbos – (Untitled illustration) (1970s) (4)

Vivien Kubbos - (Untitled illustration) (c1970's) (5)

Vivien Kubbos – (Untitled illustration) (1970s) (5)

Vivien Kubbos also illustrated many of the books in the Pony Pals book series, written by Jeanne Betancourt and published by Scholastic. Frustratingly not all the books mention the illustrator’s name. The images I used came from the book Western Pony, written by Betancourt and published in 1999. All images are drawn in pencil.

Vivien Kubbos - Western Pony (1999) (1)

Vivien Kubbos – Western Pony (1999) (1)

Vivien Kubbos - Western Pony (1999) (2)

Vivien Kubbos – Western Pony (1999) (2)

These images clearly show how easily Vivien can change her style and what a hugely skillful artist she is. I find the images of the people, and more so the horses, to be very realistic.

Vivien Kubbos - Western Pony (1999) (3)

Vivien Kubbos – Western Pony (1999) (3)

Vivien Kubbos - Western Pony (1999) (4)

Vivien Kubbos – Western Pony (1999) (4)

Finally we have what must be Vivien’s defining work: The Wizard of Jenolan, written by Nuri Mass and published by Just Solutions in 1993. The Wizard of Jenolan is a rewriting and re-release of a book first written by Nuri Mass in 1946, so if anyone thinks of buying the book, the images are only in the 1993 re-release. All the images are drawn in pencil. The story is about Thel who, under the spell of “Something”, follows a Wallaby down a tunnel into the Jenolan Caves. While in the cave system Thel discovers that the caves are not as they seem to other visitors and the outside world; she has many magical experiences such as travelling back in time and encountering creatures that want to borrow her reflection. She also talks directly with the caves themselves which teach her about how they were formed. The Wallaby eventually leads her back out but Thel then falls asleep so that when she wakes up she is not quite sure if she ever did follow the wallaby into the cave or that she dreamed it.

Vivien Kubbos - The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (1)

Vivien Kubbos – The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (1)

Vivien Kubbos - The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (2)

Vivien Kubbos – The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (2)

Vivien Kubbos - The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (3)

Vivien Kubbos – The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (3)

Vivien illustrated many other children’s books, did painting for commemorative merchandise and in retirement spent most of her time painting, though these subjects are outside the scope of this blog and so are not displayed. Additionally, given that she is not always credited, there are probably many works by Vivien that are yet to be acknowledged.

Vivien Kubbos - The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (4)

Vivien Kubbos – The Wizard of Jenolan (1993) (4)

Vitality in Subtle Gestures: Teresa Riba

A reader from Spain brought my attention to this sculptor. This is a further demonstration that there are many established on-topic artists who still need to be covered on this site.

Teresa Riba was born in 1962 and raised in the Igualada district of Barcelona. She graduated from Facultad de Bellas Artes de Barcelona (Faculty of Fine Arts in Barcelona) and is now a professor at l’Escola d’Art Gaspar Camps (School of Art Gaspar Camps). Although this artist has a Facebook account and a sales site (Galeria D’Art Anquin’s) for her work, the only substantial information comes from an interview conducted in 2013 and originally published as “Entre 8km2″ in Diari d’Igualada.

Teresa Riba - Nen (charcoal) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba – Nen (charcoal) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba - De tu a tu XI (acrylic) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba – De tu a tu XI (acrylic) (Date Unknown)

Although Riba’s repertoire includes drawings, she has been specializing in sculpture since 1985. She has a reputation for her penetrating insight into the character of youth, paying particular attention to the nuance of gesture and how it reflects the compelling everyday behavior of young girls, both in their innocence and their inner power. The artist has also adapted to technological developments with a series called ‘Entre dits’ showing her subjects using mobile phones, texting and engaging in the latest forms of social media as though they were observed from the street.

Teresa Riba - Entre dits, II, 7 8 (bronze) (2015)

Teresa Riba – Entre dits, II, 7 8 (bronze) (2015)

Teresa Riba - Nena rambla (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba – Nena rambla (Date Unknown)

Riba’s sculptures are figurative and characterized by their coarse texture and robust vitality. The potency of a subtle gesture was expressed by another sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, and Riba expounds on that principle in her work. The artist avoids falling into the familiar trap of producing pieces of a particular type and attempts to bring out the distinct character of each subject. Even when displaying multiple pieces in an exhibit, special care is taken in placing each work in relation to the others.

Teresa Riba - Movil tres (bronze) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba – Movil tres (bronze) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba - Judit (resin) (2014)

Teresa Riba – Judit (resin) (2014)

Teresa Riba - Des de dalt (bronze) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba – Des de dalt (bronze) (Date Unknown)

Riba says her rough style invites touch and makes the pieces seem unfinished yet much more alive and expressive. She prefers to work with molding clay—and uses these molds to produce bronzes—but also likes working with wood and stone. The softer materials have advantages, giving the artist more options and engaging the fuller use of her hands. Although most sculptors prefer to create in a certain size range, Riba has produced work from 5 to 10 centimeters in height up to 4 to 5 meters, with pieces weighing up to 13 tons.

Teresa Riba - Tarda al sol 3 (bronze) (Date Unknown)

Teresa Riba – Tarda al sol 3 (bronze) (Date Unknown)

As a professor, she acknowledges that the challenges of teaching have changed. With the advent of the internet, more people have access to knowledge about production and the artistic process. However, lack of experience and supervision can lead to misinformation and thus access to a good teacher in a school setting is still quite valuable. Serious artists engage in learning experiences on a daily basis.

Any corrections or more details on these images would be appreciated, particularly by those fluent in Catalan.

Eloise Wilkin: Illustrator of Little Golden Books

Most of us would have childhood memories of reading books illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Wilkin started writing Little Golden Books in the 1940s and many of her books are still being re-released today. The illustrations of Eloise Wilkin depict an idyllic environment that is free of dangers and is inhabited by chubby, cherub-faced toddlers and children. These children are mainly of Caucasian appearance, though occasionally other ethnicities do appear. Curiously most children drawn by Wilkin have a closed mouth smile or contemplative expression—you almost never see their teeth. I suppose this was because Wilkin was not comfortable or did not believe she could convincingly draw other expressions. Regardless, I don’t think this lack of varied expression reduced the quality of her images. All of her images are either watercolors or coloured pencil drawings.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book A Child's Garden of Verses 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book A Child’s Garden of Verses (1957)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1) 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1957) (1)

Eloise Margaret Wilkin was born (as Eloise Margaret Burns, March 30, 1904–October 4, 1987) in Rochester, NY. She completed an illustration course at the Rochester Institute of Technology and upon graduation, started up an art studio with her friend Joan Esley. However the art studio was unsuccessful and she struggled to find work in Rochester so she moved to New York City. Here Eloise did freelance work for many publishing companies and her first published book was The Shining Hour (1927) for the Century Co. Additionally, Wilkin also illustrated paper dolls for the businesses Playtime House, Jaymar and Samuel Gabriel and Sons.

Eloise Wilkin - Prayers for Children (Cover) 1952

Eloise Wilkin – Prayers for Children (Cover) (1952)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book My Goodnight Book 1981

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book My Goodnight Book (1981)

Eloise married Sidney Wilkin in 1935 and reduced the amount of illustrating work she did for the next nine years in order to raise their four children.  She signed a contract with Simon & Schuster in 1944 and went on to illustrate about fifty Little Golden Books. During this time she would use family, relations and neighbours as models for her images. The landscapes that appeared in Eloise’s illustrations were also real and drawn from the areas she lived or holidayed.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (2) 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1957) (2)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (3) 1957

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Wonders of Nature (1957) (3)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Birds 1958 (1)

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Birds (1958) (1)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Birds 1958 (2)

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Birds (1958) (2)

Eloise Wilkin started designing dolls in 1961. Her first doll was was the Baby Dear doll produced by Vogue Dolls. Inc. which came in two sizes, 12 and 18 inches.

Image of "Baby Dear" doll created by Eloise Wilkin

Image of “Baby Dear” doll created by Eloise Wilkin

Eloise went on to create six other dolls.

Image of seven dolls all created by Eloise Wilkin

Image of seven dolls all created by Eloise Wilkin

The Baby Dear doll was released concurrently with the book Baby Dear, published by Little Golden Books, and appears in the book as the little girl’s doll. Another interesting thing about the Baby Dear book is that it was written by Esther Wilkin, Eloise’s sister. Additionally her daughter was the model for the mother and her grandson the model for the baby.

Eloise Wilkin - Baby Dear (Cover) 1962

Eloise Wilkin – Baby Dear (Cover) (1962)

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Baby Dear 1962

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Baby Dear (1962)

In addition to books Eloise’s images also appeared on calendars, puzzles, the covers of Little Golden Records, china plates, ads, cards and in Child’s Life, Story Parade and Golden Magazine.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book We Like Kindergarten 1965

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book We Like Kindergarten (1965)

Eloise Wilkin - My Kitten (Cover) 1954

Eloise Wilkin – My Kitten (Cover) (1954)

Eloise Wilkin - Songs of Praise (Cover) 1970

Eloise Wilkin – Songs of Praise (Cover) (1970)

Eloise continued to illustrate and design dolls right up until her death, from cancer in 1987.

Eloise Wilkin - Untitled illustration from the book Prayers for Children 1952

Eloise Wilkin – Untitled illustration from the book Prayers for Children (1952)

An extensive bibliography of Eloise Wilkin books can be found at the Loganberry Books website

To listen to a three-part interview with one of Eloise Wilkin’s daughters, Deborah Wilkin Springett go to the triviumpursuit website. The webpage also says you can order her biography about her mother, The Golden Years of Eloise Wilkin, however this page is eight years old, at this time, so it may no longer be available.

Random Images: The Girl of Steel

Keith Ward - US Steel Advertisement (Undated)

Keith Ward – US Steel Advertisement (undated)

Like most companies in the mid-Twentieth Century, U.S. Steel relied on full page advertising to promote the value of their products. To display their uses in the home, U.S. Steel employed the talent of artist Keith Ward to create a happy home scene. Keith Ward (1906–2000) provided many illustrations for magazines such as Child’s Life, Boy’s Life and other magazines of the day. Ward was the illustrator for the ‘Dick and Jane’ series of books and his illustrations were used in advertising for companies such as Elmer’s Glue, Phillips 66 and of course U.S. Steel. The first U.S. Steel ad pictured above was printed in the Ladies’ Home Journal and featured a young girl, freshly bathed, being dried off by her mother in a bathroom filled with useful steel products. Interesting to note is the strategically held puppy in the girl’s hands. Much like the Avon ad in an earlier post, this image would never find a home in a magazine in today’s society.