Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Virginia Frances Sterrett
Illustration from "Arabian Nights" (1928)

Illustration from "Arabian Nights" (1928) More artworks can be found in this gallery.

Illustration from "Tanglewood Tales" (1921)

Illustration from "Tanglewood Tales" (1921)

You can download various versions of the book at Archive.org

Illustration from "Old French Fairy Tales" (1920)

Download the book at Archive.org

"In 1919 at the age of 19, she was given an opportunity to fulfill her lifelong dream. She was commissioned by the Penn Publishing Company to illustrate Old French Fairy Tales by Comtesse de Segur. She completed the pictures – pen and ink drawings and water colors – and received $500 for the work. After receiving the illustrations, the publishers paid her another $250 for several line drawings for the inside of the front and back covers of the book. Another illustration job followed in 1921 with Penn Publishing Company again commissioned her to illustrate an edition of Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The favorite stories from Greek mythology gave Sterrett another opportunity to exercise her talent and love for the imagery of fantasy.

In 1923, the family moved to southern California and settled in Altadena. Soon afterward, Sterrett became active in the local art scene, but her physical condition had become so bad she had to enter a sanatorium. She continued to work, but only for short periods at a time. During this time, she was again commissioned by Penn Publishing Company to illustrate Arabian Nights. Like the other two books she illustrated, Arabian Nights was a large book with large type, simple stories, and designed to be a gift book for children. Sterrett provided 16 illustrations in color, 20 in black and white, a colored picture for the front cover and a drawing for the inside of the covers. This masterpiece took her three years to complete due to her failing health and limited working hours.

The 1928 publishing of Arabian Nights brought a measure of recognition for Sterrett from discriminating art critics, who praised her work and said it had an imaginative conception, grace, and delicacy of execution all its own. Children and adults alike were captivated by her artwork but were unable to name the artist. The world at large still did not know her.

Coupled with her professional success, her health began to improve at the sanatorium, and she was told the disease was arrested. She was able to move into a home with her family and over the next several years (from 1929-1930), she had several local art exhibits at the Little Gallery in Monrovia, California; the Los Angeles County Fair; Painters and Sculptors of Los Angeles, and the California State Fair.

Shortly afterward she undertook another commission from the Penn Publishing Company to illustrate an edition of Myths and Legends. However, the task was never fulfilled. She died on June 8, 1931, after a relapse of tuberculosis. Most of the images for the new book had been completed – if she had been given only a few more months of life, the work would have been finished." - quote source

While putting together this post I noticed that the excellent blog A Journey Round My Skull mentioned Sterrett just last week.

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