ILLUMINATED: The Art of Children’s Book Illustration

Travel through worlds of OnceUponATimes in our online exhibition “ILLUMINATED: The Art of Children’s Book Illustration”. Childhood characters like Winnie the PoohAlice in Wonderland and Blinky Bill have become household names.

The artists who brought these characters to life in illustrations, however, are lesser-known. In this timeline we explore some of the most iconic children’s books and the illustrators who brought them to life.

The Illuminated Exhibition at the Moruya Museum, October 2020
  • J. J. Grandville illustrates ‘The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

    In 1719, Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe,  one of the first novels written in the English language. At the time of its publication it was thought to be a true first hand account of the main characters travels.

    It remains one of the most translated works, second only to the Bible.

  • The Adventures of Alice In Wonderland with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel

    The shift to a modern genre of children’s literature occurred in the mid-19th-century, with the ground-breaking Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (the pen-name of Lewis Carroll). The stories of Alice’s adventures in a fantasy world marked a new era. Stories were written to stimulate the imagination of children. They were books written for fun rather than education.

  • Wood engraving is used to illustrate ‘Madeline, A Story Of the Early Springtime’

    “By means of tracing-paper I transfer my design to the wood and draw on that.” John Tenniel .

    ‘Madeline A Story of the Early Spring-Time’ by Jacob Abbott (500/119) and published in 1869  is one of the earliest children’s books in our collection.

    The illustrations are beautifully intricate wood engravings.

    During the Victorian period, wood engraving became the preferred medium for graphic reproductions.

  • Chromolithography revolutionises the printing industry

    In the first half of the 19th century, color images were usually printed in black and white and then colored by hand.

    Chromolithography, a technique for printing in colours, began to be employed to print color images in the 1840s. It had a dazzling and meteoric life. After centuries of black ink on white paper, it burst onto the printing scene about 1840 and then vanished by the 1930s.

  • The Golden Age Of Children’s Book Illustration Begins

    The so-called “Golden Age” of children’s illustrated books—a period dating from around 1880 to the early twentieth century—is today regarded as a literary epoch that produced some of the finest works of art ever created for children’s literature. The culmination of a progressive movement that, for the first time, focused on producing texts specifically oriented to appeal to children, this era continues to be cited as a major source of inspiration for modern juvenile authors and illustrators.

  • Prizegivings & Presentations

    There is a long tradition of marketing books as prizes  in juvenile publishing.

    These books were originally designed to impart moral guidelines, to reinforce exemplary behavior, and to caution against the evils of intemperance or profanity. By the 1870s prize books were more secular in content.

  • Our copy of ‘The Quiver: An illustrated magazine for Sunday and general reading’ was published

    The Quiver: An Illustrated Magazine for Sunday and General Reading was a weekly magazine published by John Cassell. It was “designed for the defence and promotion of biblical truth and the advance of religion in the homes of the people”. Another goal was that it would bring about “intellectual, moral and spiritual improvement.”

  • Beatrix Potter

    Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist; she was best known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

    Born into an upper-middle-class household, Potter was educated by governesses and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and developed a love of landscape, flora and fauna . . .

  • The Boy’s Own Paper – 1906

    The Boy’s Own Paper was a British story paper aimed at young and teenage boys, published from 1879 to 1967.

    It was published by the Religious Tract Society, as a means to encourage younger children to read and to instill Christian morals during their formative years. The first issue was published on 18 January 1879. The final issue, a “Special Souvenir Edition, Price 2/-“ was published on 27 January 1967.

  • Norman Lindsay and The Magic Pudding

    “The Magic Pudding is a pie, except when it’s something else, like a steak, or a jam donut, or an apple dumpling, or whatever its owner wants it to be.

    And it never runs out. No matter how many slices you cut, there’s always something left over. It’s magic.” The . . .

  • May Gibbs writes and illustrates ” Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie’

    May Gibbs (1877-1969), author, illustrator and cartoonist, captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of Australians with her lovable bush characters and fairytale landscapes. She was Australia’s first full-time, professionally trained children’s book illustrator.  . .

  • A. E. Jackson illustrates ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’

    Alfred Edward Frederick Jackson was born in Kentish Town, London, England, in 1873. Jackson had a modest upbringing.

    His parents supported his artistic pursuits however, and he trained at Camden School of Art, where he was an exceptional student winning a Gold and Silver medal for his work. At the age of twenty-eight (in 1901), Jackson had his first painting exhibited at the Royal Academy. 

  • Margaret Tarrant illustrates “Anderson’s Fairy Tales’

    Margaret Winifred Tarrant was born in Battersea, London, England, on 19th August, 1888.  She was an English illustrator and children’s author, who specialised in children’s and religious subjects.

    Her first success came when she was just twenty. This was the publication of an edition of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (1908). From this point onwards, Tarrant continued to produce high-quality illustrations and prints.

  • E. H. Shepard illustrates Winnie-the-Pooh

    Ernest Howard Shepard OBE, MC (1879 – 1976) was an English artist and book illustrator.  He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Arts, and later worked for Punch magazine as a cartoonist and illustrator. The collaboration between  A A Milne and E H Shepard, both of whom worked for Punch, led to the book  When We Were Very Young (1924) and  the classic Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). Their partnership was one of the most important in the history of illustrated literature.

  • Dorothy Wall writes and illustrates ‘The Adventures of Blinky Bill’

    Dorothy Wall (1894-1942), author and illustrator, was born in Wellington, New Zealand

    Her most famous book, Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian, is based on stories told to Peter, her only child. It was published in 1933. Blinky Bill Grows Up (1934) and Blinky Bill and Nutsy (1937) followed.

    These books feature a young, mischievous koala and his friends, all dressed in trousers, dresses, aprons and bonnets.  

  • Modernism &
    ‘The Famous Five’

    The 1940s were dominated by war. Modernism emerged as the leading artistic movement. Illustrators withdrew from the highly decorative style of children’s book illustration that was predominant during the ‘Golden Age’.

    In its place there was a commitment to a reduced stylization of figures and objects as well as as well as the omission of detailed settings in favour of a negative space, influenced by the modernist movement . . .

  • Games, Puzzles and Pastimes

    Post war austerity and shortages made way for optimism and technological advances during the 1950s. this optimism, along with mass consumerism and mass communication, was a hallmark of the period.

    Society was based on traditional family structures with their accompanying gender roles and racial stereotyping. These factors influenced the quickly expanding market for children’s literature.

  • book illustration today

    Two very different books are examined, both shortlisted for awards

    • The Good Son: a Story from the First World War and
    • Wilam: A Birrarung Story.