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She made pictures of haunting loveliness.
April 9, 2011 8:05 PM   Subscribe

19 year-old Virginia Frances Sterrett was commissioned by the Penn Publishing Company to illustrate Old French Fairy Tales by Comtesse de Segur (1920). Sterrett was already ill with tuberculosis, the disease that would end her life at age 30.

In her brief career she completed two more illustrated books, both for Penn: Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Arabian Nights. She did much of her work while in a sanatorium and could only draw for brief periods. A fourth book, an edition of Myths and Legends, was never finished; her TB came out of remission and she died in the summer of 1931. The incomplete drawings have never been published.

Though she was largely self-taught, Sterrett's arresting visual style evokes other Art Nouveau illustrators, including Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac.
posted by nev (26 comments total) 114 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hey now, no need to pine for the past, we've already started dying off from polydrug-resistant TB again.

For once, those wild and crazy Victorians won't get all the fun!
posted by pla at 8:27 PM on April 9, 2011


Wow. How outstandingly gorgeous. I love this style of art a lot. Thanks so much for posting!
posted by hippybear at 8:28 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, this is quite lovely and delightf— ZOMG FOREST OF LILACS!!! Oh, yay!

*suddenly reevaluates plans for what was going to get accomplished this evening*
posted by Lexica at 8:31 PM on April 9, 2011


The way she draws plants is wonderful - undulating in seemingly random directions, yet not quite sprawling. Beautiful.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:35 PM on April 9, 2011


Definite hints of Erté in the way she does her human figures, too. (Although everything else is Nouveau instead of Deco.)
posted by hippybear at 8:38 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love it. And although it's not really out of the same school, I'll bet that if you like these you'll like the illustrations by Andrej and Olga Dugin for the story Dragon Feathers.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:45 PM on April 9, 2011


Thanks for this. I think I have a bunch of digging around on openlibrary.org to do now.
posted by brennen at 8:50 PM on April 9, 2011


This is lovely.
posted by shelleycat at 8:56 PM on April 9, 2011


OH GOD A DIRECT PORT TO MY AESTHETIC SENSIBILITIES WHY THANK YOU
posted by The Whelk at 9:17 PM on April 9, 2011 [5 favorites]



Definite hints of Erté in the way she does her human figures, too. (Although everything else is Nouveau instead of Deco.)


Very Erte in a few compositions, and looks a lot like the stuff Yoshitaka Amano is drawing from.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


But yeah it's like Dulac Does Deco. A colored, more fanciful kind of Harry Clarke
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


gorgeous.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:22 PM on April 9, 2011


The mishmash of cultures for the Arabian Nights is interesting. It's a confusion of Middle Eastern and Far East motifs, anything "East" got thrown in, from minaret spires to Indian patterns and Chinese headdresses and Turkish miniature.
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 PM on April 9, 2011


Wow, this is a great post.
posted by killdevil at 9:51 PM on April 9, 2011


Wow, what a visual feast! So beautiful! Thank you so much nev! Treasure, a great find.
posted by nickyskye at 12:41 AM on April 10, 2011


This is so wonderful! When I was a kid I read so many fairy tales, and these gorgeous illustrations take me back to that magical feeling where the world is this beautiful. Thank you!
posted by ukdanae at 4:45 AM on April 10, 2011


OH GOD A DIRECT PORT TO MY AESTHETIC SENSIBILITIES WHY THANK YOU

WITH A PAYPAL BUTTON. CURSE YOU!
posted by SomeTrickPony at 5:12 AM on April 10, 2011


Well, in fairness, the page with the PayPal button does have three pretty high-quality .pdfs on it for free download...
posted by hippybear at 7:18 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a confusion of Middle Eastern and Far East motifs, anything "East" got thrown in, from minaret spires to Indian patterns and Chinese headdresses and Turkish miniature.

There's actually some justification for that. Aladdin's tale is explicitly set in an Islamic version of China, Prince Ahmed and his brothers ramble all over the Indian subcontinent, and Sinbad's adventures are strung along the seven seas between Arabia and China. Sterrett's art may well be a purposeful comment on the syncretism and exoticism inherent in the story.
posted by Iridic at 7:37 AM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


How beautiful.
Thank you for sharing.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:38 AM on April 10, 2011


Ah! My glib surface knowledge of things attacks again.
posted by The Whelk at 7:46 AM on April 10, 2011


WOWIE! An illustrator I knew nothing about! As a long-time admirer of Kay Nielson's work, all I can say is: Love it! THANKS!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:04 AM on April 10, 2011


It's an absolutely horrible disease and many people don't know that it is still around. I actually know someone who died from it- the long painful failire of the respitory system.
posted by silentsender at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2011


What an awesome post, these are beautiful.
posted by biscotti at 5:41 PM on April 10, 2011


lovely, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:50 PM on April 10, 2011


I love this! From a digitization perspective, it drives me a bit crazy that all the color images in Old French Fairy Tales are swapped with their captions so the pages are in the wrong order... am I the only one weird enough to notice this?
posted by audacity at 9:48 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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