Monday, June 27, 2011

Virginia Frances Sterrett, wish you could have stayed a while longer

Occasionally, there is a bright flash that flares up in an art field- only to be made dark again when that light is quickly put out. It seems to me that an unusual number of creatives, writers and artists alike, led noticeably shorter lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now, it may be that everyone led shorter lives, but, I'm not looking at life-stories across the board, It's the creatives that interest me.

One of these cases belongs to the life of American illustrator Virginia Frances Sterrett. (1900-1931)

Sterrett had a difficult youth—her mother died when Virginia was just 9, and her father had died even earlier— and Virginia was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 19. While dealing with the disease over the next decade, she managed to complete illustration commissions for three books between bouts of sickness—Old French Fairy Tales (1920), Tanglewood Tales (1921), and Arabian Nights, 1928.

Her work shows a good deal of eastern and art deco influence. Much of it makes use of flat shapes that function as near silhouettes, while other pieces use simple backdrops for complex and delicate figures to set against. Her art is exceptional in these areas, however, and a beautiful sense of color and design permeates all of her work.

Despite her short life, and just this trio of volumes, she has a better web presence than many illustrators of the day. I bring her to your attention only because you may not have stumbled upon her yet, and her work and her story are worthy of review.

View all of those illustrations here-

and a short bio here-


Shakespeare Illustrated,
now available through Dover Publications—due in stock at Amazon on July 3rd