A Few Children’s Book Illustrator’s I’m in Love With

I love children’s books. Seriously, they make me all sorts of happy. The best ones, I think, are the lavishly illustrated editions of golden age of children’s book illustration. There was this perfect storm of printing technology meeting people newly interested in lavishing attention on their children meeting really talented artists and an obsession with fairy tales.

Truly, what could be better?

I have other favorites like Ivan Bilbun who I’ve mentioned before, and Rackham who I could post way more about than I am going to here. So, this is a partial list for me.

Edmund Dulac

 dulac-2 dulac
People may have heard of Edmund Dulac, the French illustrator, but what most don’t know is that he did illustrations for a collection of Edgar Allen Poe in 1912. After the Great War, the popularity of lavishly illustrated books were a rarity and he fell out of fashion. The romantic nature of his illustrations belies a certain spookiness.

Virginia Sterrett

sterrett sterrett-2
So, Chicago-born illustrator Virginia Frances Sterrett isn’t very well known, as far as I can tell, which is a pity. She only completed three books before she died at 31 from TB in 1931. Her stuff is both whimsical and otherworldly, with just a hint of art deco. And I’m all about hints of the art deco.

Dorothy Lathrop

lathrop lathrop-2
Dorothy Pulis Lathrop, born in 1891 and then died in 1980. I prefer her black and white stuff to her color illustrations, but she, like a lot of my other favorites, has a whole deco influenced whimsical thing going. She’s probably most famous for illustrating Hitty and Her First Hundred Years which is one of my favorite books. Despite the some pretty dated content, the book is still wonderful, but then… I do have a thing for dolls.

Kay Nielsen

neilsen neilsen-2 
So, Kay Nielsen was Danish. His stuff feels somehow every northern to me. He had a somewhat tragic life, but he’s best known for his work with Disney on Fantasia. In his later years, he was quite poor and after his death no museum or library wanted his materials. Fortunately, his manuscripts and other papers eventually found a home at the University of Pittsburgh.

T. Blakeley Mackenzie

mackenzie-2 mackenzie 
Mackenzie was born in 1887, and died in 1944. He win’s my “artist no one has heard of who I adore” award. The poor guy hasn’t even got a Wikipedia entry. It’s a pity, because his stuff is amazing. He avoids the sentimentality that was so rampant in the early 20th century and instead makes things that are fantastical and… like almost everyone else I like… also a little off center.

So, these are a few of my favorites. Does anyone have a favorite one that I missed?


  1. They’re all gorgeous and if you really look very similar in their art work but all absolutely gorgeous and some of my favs.

    1. They are certainly of a similar style. I can not deny that I have a “look” that I like. 🙂 I also had to narrow down my list, since it would have been a lot longer if I’d included everyone I liked. What are some of your other favs?

  2. Aubrey Beardsley and Maxfield Parrish were “adult” illustrators of a similar style. Beardsley illustrated some of the works of Oscar Wilde so definitely some adult themes there. Once you see a Parrish picture, you’ll feel like you’ve seen them everywhere.

  3. Beardsley is one of my other favorites, though his stuff can be quite racy and strange. Maxfield Parish is a little… pastoral for my taste.

  4. That is so sad about Kay Nielsen! He is definitely one of my favorite children’s book illustrators. I wish I could have his materials no one wanted!! They have one of his pen and ink pieces in the children’s book museum outside Amherst Mass and it was so amazing to see in person.

    1. His papers are actually at the University of Pittsburgh, these days. Illustrators were not really considered “artists” for a long time by libraries and so there was a period when art museums weren’t interested and neither were libraries. That’s changed these days, of course.

  5. Sorry to be so late to the party! How about the Robinson brothers, Heath and… Charles? And the wonderful Sidney Sime. Perhaps a little love for the Brandywine River School, N. C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, etc? I’m a huge John Bauer fan also. Obviously we’re talking the old stuff, not Brian Froud or Alan Lee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.