I feel I should just take a bow and shuffle back stage, letting you look at these illustrations without the distraction of words. But I am a writer, so I'll dilly-dally a little longer.
Commissioned for The Big Christmas Wonder Book (1937) these incredibly stylised children’s illustrations by British artist Joyce Mercer (1896–1965) demand to be stared at, whether you’re a 1930s child sinking into your pillow, or a 21st century vintage lover revelling in the elegance of a lost decade.
Hard black lines give the precision of stained glass, whilst the abundance of perfectly executed curls give the satisfaction of fine calligraphy. I wonder what the artist's handwriting was like?
Look at them from a distance, or upside down, and the balance and poise of the whole composition comes to the fore, letting you enjoy them all over again.
Encapsulating the character of the period and dramatically telling a story, Ms Mercer, I doff my hat to you.
For those of your who’ve just watched The King’s Speech, The Big Christmas Wonder Book was published in the middle of those events, for that was the Christmas when Edward VII gave up the British throne for Wallis Simpson. Eight pages of illustrations in the book offer a souvenir of the coronation of Edward VII, an event that never happened.
If you’d like to know more about the owner of my family’s copy of The Big Christmas Wonder Book, please click through to this blog post A Hand Written Letter from 1946.
Invitation to Comment
Which is your favourite picture? I think mine is “The Princess was more lovely than words could tell”.
And who are your favourite children’s illustrators? I of course also like Arthur Rackham, "Google Image" his name if you’re not familiar, you're in for a treat.
Next post: The 16th Century Lion Armour
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