Sunday, October 17, 2010

some picture!

On Friday Garth Williams' original cover art for Charlotte's Web sold at auction in New York city for $155,000 USD.  This was more than five times the estimated price.   It got me thinking about the often unsung role of children's book illustrators.  How different would my memories of certain children's books be had the illustrations been different?

Garth Williams first entered my childhood not through Charlotte's Web but through the Little House books where his pen and ink sketches perfectly captured the hardships and homeyness of life on the frontier.

Hilary Knight also worked in pen and ink but he demonstrated how one simple colour could take you to another universe entirely - the world of Eloise, a city child who lives at the Plaza. 
Shot through with pink, his illustrations, like Eloise, are frequently chaotic, often glamourous and never boring.

My absolute favourite children's illustrator is E. H. Shepard who created the original illustrations for A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Disney can keep its colour-drenched manufactured cuteness. For me there is only one Pooh or Piglet or Christopher Robin and they live in the sketches and soft water colours of Ernest Shepard.  It's interesting that A.A. Milne originally thought Shepard would be the wrong pick to illustrate his books.  But after their first collaboration, it was clear the partnership was a success and Milne arranged for Shepard to receive a share of the books royalties.  And he inscribed a copy of Winnie the Pooh to Shepard with the following poem:

When I am gone,
Let Shepard decorate my tomb,
And put (if there is room)
Two pictures on the stone:
Piglet from page a hundred and eleven,
And Pooh and Piglet walking (157)…
And Peter, thinking that they are my own,
Will welcome me to Heaven.

1 comment:

Jilanna said...

Garth Williams has made an indelible impression on my memory and imagination. Without question, he is my favourite.

Milne's inscription to Shepard is a powerful and moving acknowledgment of their partnership. Bravo to them both.