Friday, September 2, 2011

Dorothy Lathrop - Exquisite Love

Welcome back to Animalarium! I hope you all had a great Summer.
Mine was very pleasant, and during this unusually relaxing period, I finally found 
the time to investigate some of the outstanding vintage children's books illustrators
that fascinate me the most. This first post is dedicated to the wonderful 
Dorothy Lathrop, an artist I admire for her beautiful, lovingly detailed illustrations, 
her study of nature and the love for all living things conveyed through her life and art.

The Story of a Tiger, 1936

Dorothy Lathrop, one of the most important and prolific illustrators of children's books of the 1930s-50s, 
was born in Albany, New York in 1891. She grew up surrounded by art and literature: her grandfather 
owned a bookstore, and her mother was a painter. Dorothy studied drawing, 
but she was also very interested in writing. 

Lathrop began her illustration career around 1918 while she was teaching art in Albany. 

Her first published artworks appeared in Walter De la Mare's The Three Mulla-Mulgars, 
an exotic tale about the fantastic adventures of three monkeys in search of their father.
 For the book she produced both large color plates and small pen and ink vignettes.
The complete volume is available online at The Internet Archives.

Illustration from Crossings, thanks to 50 watts

Lathrop and De la Mare became friends, and she went on to illustrate 5 more of his children's books,
 including the 1922 book of fairy poems Down-A-Down Derry and the 1923 fairy play Crossings

The Long Bright Land, 1929

Through these works Lathrop became a popular artist, and started to receive many commissions. 
She especially enjoyed illustrating books about animals, and later wrote her own animal stories
When she moved with her sculptor sister Gertrude into a new house and studio, 
the two shared their home with an assortment of small domestic and wild animals 
that were cherished as companions, sources of inspiration and models for their art. 
The Lathrop's ever-changing menagerie included red squirrels, Pekingese puppies, 
chipmunks, mice, turtles and more.

The most popular of the books illustrated by Lathrop was Rachel Field's Hitty, Her First Hundred Years,
 a story about the adventures of a doll which was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1930.
See many artworks from this and other Lathrop books at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

 Illustration thanks to A Polar Bear's Tale

In 1931 Lathrop wrote her first book, The Fairy Circus, which showcases the acrobatic performances
 of a team of little woodland creatures and fairies, and received a Newbery Medal Honor citation. 
More illustrations from this lovely volume can be found at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

The Little White Goat, 1933

Lathrop was accomplished in many artistic techniques including pen and ink, colored pencil, oil, 
watercolor, gouache, graphite, woodcut and wood engraving, and lithographic crayon.
In the mid-1930s, prompted by new developments in commercial printing, 
she turned to lithographic pencil as a primary medium. 

Cover image thanks to Page Books

Her first book featuring drawings in this media is Who Goes There? (1935),
a story about a picnic left by children for the small animals of the woods. 

Hide and Go Seek (1938) is considered one of Lathrop's finest works.

In the same year she received the very first Caldecott Medal for her 
Animals of the Bible, A Picture Book.

In Mr. Bumps and His Monkey (1942), another De la Mare title, Lathrop used a live monkey 
as a model for Jasper, the main character. The self portrait below shows them together.

Jaspa and Me, engraving, 1949, thanks to 50 Watts

Lathrop wrote numerous books including The Dog in the Tapestry Garden (1942), 
the story of a lonely greyhound who jumps into a old tapestry to play 
with a pretty white dog woven into its garden.
Let Them Live (1951) is an expression of her concern for the wild creatures 
at risk in a world conquered by men don't love and respect to them.

Follow the brook, published in 1967, was one of her last books. 
She died in 1980 at the age of 89. 

Many thanks to 50 Watts for the discovery, and to Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr.
at JVJ Publishing for much of the info.


  1. This is so interesting and informative. I hope we will see more of such fine illustration art .

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



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