Advent Calendar of Illustration 2020

22nd December 2020

24th December, 2020
"The children were nestled all snug in their beds"
Our final advent illustration is this Arthur Rackham painting for the Night before Christmas. The innocent faces of the children as they dream of the day to come is enough to melt any heart.
A Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good Night...
23rd December, 2020
A good book and an angel delivering a glass of fine wine, that sounds like Christmas.
Today's image is one of the glorious illuminations in the Sangorski & Sutcliffe Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
First published in 1910, this elaborate edition of Omar Khayyam's epic Persian verse was printed in an edition of just 550 copies. Bound in full ivory vellum, with a statuesque peacock embossed on the upper panel and signed by the producers, so highly was the book regarded that number 1 of the limitaiton was bound in a jewelled binding and exhibited aboard the Titanic.
22nd December, 2020
Today's illustration by Arthur Rackham shows a scene from Grimm's fairy tale, The Three Little Men in the Woods, which includes a jealous stepmother, goblins and the moral that to show kindness even in adversity will reap rewards.
The drawings appears in the 1917 book 'Little Brother and Little Sister and other tales by the Brothers Grimm.'
21st December
"Good fortunes fay forget thee not throughout these coming days."
Today we're sharing this message and illustration taken from a Christmas Card drawn as a private commission by Jessie M. King, for Alderman and Miss Woods in 1909.
Jessie Marion King (1875-1949) enrolled in the Glasgow School of Art at the age of 17 where she studied and taught alongside Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau and the developing 'Glasgow Style'. At the 1902 Turin exhibition King won the gold medal for book design resulting in a new commissions and Europe wide publicity. More about her life and work can be browsed here.
20th December, 2020
We love this drawing by Horace J. Knowles from his 1932 "First Book of Prayers".
19th December 2020
On this date 177 years ago Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was first published and so it seems fitting that today's advent image is the engraved frontispiece to the story by John Leech. It is accompanied by the author's presentation inscription from an "affectionate friend Charles Dickens."
On publication book was an instant success, reportedly selling all 6000 copies of the first edition on the first day of publication, almost single-handedly spawning a new genre of “Christmas literature”. Buoyed by his success, Dickens wrote a further four Christmas stories each seeking to strike a blow for the poor, uneducated and repressed, but imbuing his message with characteristic humour and good cheer. All were well received and sold well, though it is A Christmas Carol which has best stood the test of time.
18th December
Today’s illustration by Arthur Rackham is from The Chimes, a goblin story.
A Christmas gift book written by Charles Dickens and the goblin folk provide perfect material for Rackham’s imagination. Arthur Rackham’s edition was published in only 1500 copies, each signed by the artist.
11th December 2020
The original Christmas story, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, seen here with illustrations by C.E. Brock. 
16th December, 2020
"A Russian Princess, and had driven all the way from Finland in a sledge drawn by six reindeer" from an Oscar Wilde fairy tale The Remarkable Rocket, this gorgeous drawing by Charles Robinson, 1913.
As always more about the book, the artist and the author on the website.
15th December, 2020
Peep behind the doors of the lift the flap Christmas book, Mathew Price's 'The Christmas Stockings' drawn by Errol Le Cain, pure Christmas delight.
14th December
E.H.Shepard's illustrations for the Winnie the Pooh books are inextricably linked to the appeal of Milne's children's books. In When We Were Very Young, a book of poetry inspired by the birth of Christopher Milne, A.A. Milne introduces us to the characters of Winnie the Pooh ( known here simply as Teddy Bear) and Christopher Robin.
A 1925 special gift edition of the poetry was published in New York, with Shepard's drawings printed in colour on the dustwrapper and on the publisher's gift box - as well as the legend "Merry Christmas."
Copies surviving in the original box are very rarely encountered.
13th December
Who wouldn't want to kiss a reindeer? We're on a roll with drawings for Hans Andersen's The Snow Queen and today's toe chilling illustration is by Toulouse born artist, Edmund Dulac.
For more information, illustrations and blog posts about Dulac follow the link below.
December 12th. We are halfway through our advent calendar of illustration and high time that the magnificent artwork of Kay Nielsen made an appearance with this drawing from his 1924 Fairy Tales of Hans Andersen.
Born in Copenhagen, Kay Nielsen came from a theatrical background, his mother was an actress and his father a theatrical director. Nielsen studied art at the Acadamie Julian in Paris and, after an exhibition in a Bond Street Gallery, acquired commissions from Hodder and Stoughton to illustrate a series of fairy tale books. Nielsen illustrated four major gift books, In Powder and Crinoline, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales and Hansel and Gretel, the tales of Grimm.
Nielsen abandoned book illustration after a move to America, where he worked on various theatrical and film projects, providing drawings for Disney’s Fantasia.
Nielsen’s work is highly distinctive, capturing a fantastical element unrivaled by other artists of the period, whilst clearly drawing on the influences of Art Nouveau and artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke.
Day 11:
Mumfie wandering through the snowy landscape by Katharine Tozer. From her first book about the eponymous elephant, The Wanderings of Mumfie, 1935.
Day 10:
Errol le Cain’s Snow Queen - drawn originally for the BBC animated production aired on Christmas Day and issued in book form in 1979.
Day 9: "In the wintry night snow was falling"
Today's image is a snowy scene from Cinderella by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, more commonly referred to by his pen name of "BB," a name derived from the size of lead shot he used. The drawing accompanies BB's selection of fairy tales, in his delightful book Meeting Hill, published in 1948.
December 8th
Today’s advent image comes from a Santa shaped book telling Clement C Mooore’s poem The Night Before Christmas . The poem is illustrated with Deco style colour pates by Fern Bisel Peat. We love ❤️ them. 🎅🏼
"Happy Days Ahead For All of You"
Advent Calendar of Illustration Day 7.
Glasgow artist Jessie M. King loved to design her own Christmas and New Year cards and this one from the 1940's is typical of the simplicity of her design, a central figure surrounded by a garland of stylised flowers and mistletoe. To the rear she has inscribed it with a little sketch of a green gate, reference to the home, Green Gate, which she shared with her husband, Scottish designer, E.A. Taylor.
Advent Calendar of Illustration day 6: Hans Andersen's The Little Match Girl has to be one of the saddest Christmas tales and Arthur Rackham's illustration is so poignant.
Dec. 5th 2020
In the Bleak Mid-Winter
British poet Christina Rossetti, who wrote the lyrics to the popular Christmas Carol, was born on this date in 1830. Today's illustration is one of many form a glorious volume of her verse illustrated by Florence Harrison. More can be enjoyed via this link:
Advent Day 4
The beauty of an advent calendar is the anticipation of what you will discover behind the window. Today’s advent image is a little different, at first glance this pair of books look like an ordinary 1898 set of Nansen’s Farthest North. Nansen's own account of his voyage to the North Pole. But closer inspection reveals the surprise of two snowy Polar scenes painted on the fore- edge of the pages, only visible when fanned out.
Day Three
This chilling image by Margaret Tarrant illustrates Hans Andersen's The Snow Queen. The book was published first as part of The Prince Charming series of books in Christmas 1917. Like others in the series the cover notes that the volume is illustrated with 48 colour plates, in fact there are 44 colour plates within the text and double page pictorial endpapers which make up the remaining plates, plus further brightly coloured scenes adorning the wraparound dustwrapper.
More of the illustrations can be seen via this link.
Dec, 2nd 2020
Luck Loo on her way to the North Pole to warm the polar bears with her red blanket. The drawing by Florence Harrison was drawn for her book of poems, A Rhyme of a Run, published 1907. The drawings in this book distinctive for their thick black borders and playful imagery.
An artist whose work always makes great use of colour and in the early part of her career producing ethereal fairy drawings and later used a Pre-Raphaelite style rich palette to accompany verse by the likes of Rossetti, Tennyson and Morris.
See more of her work and read our blog about the uncovering of her true identity via this link.
December 1st, 2020
Welcome to this year's advent calendar of illustration. One festive image for each day of advent. And where better to start than with a watercolour illustration by Beatrix Potter, published for Christmas 1890 in her first little booklet, "A Happy Pair".
In the summer of 1889 the twenty four year old Beatrix Potter took it upon herself to buy a Rabbit.
“I brought him home from a London bird shop in a paper bag. His existence was not observed by the nursery authorities for a week.”. She christened him Benjamin Bouncer, and he was to be the model to satisfy her voracious appetite for drawing.
‘One of the greatest admirers of her work was her uncle, and when he heard that she had set her heart on buying a printing press but had not enough money for it, he suggested she might try to earn some by selling her drawings... With this encouragement, Beatrix set about preparing six designs, using Benjamin Bouncer as her model... and when they were disappointedly rejected by the first firm on the list by return of post, Walter [her brother] took the drawings by hand to the next firm, Hildesheimer & Faulkner, on his way through London. Mr. Faulkner bought them on the spot for £6 and then asked to see more of the artist’s work. Beatrix could hardly believe it. “My first act was to give Bounce a cupful of seeds...”
Some of the designs were published as Christmas and New Year cards and other as illustrations, ‘by H.B.P.’, to a set of verses by Frederic E. Weatherly, in a booklet entitled A Happy Pair which sold for 4½d. Helen Beatrix Potter had started her professional career.' (Judy Taylor)
One of the poems is about a Benjamin Bunny, our first sighting of the eponymous hero of Potter’s later classic animal stories.
Potter’s first published work, preceding The Tale of Peter Rabbit by eleven years, and of legendary scarcity.
Learn more about Potter and collecting her work:

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