Friday, March 11, 2011

An Artist Escape, With Virginia Sterrett

Old French Fairy Tales

One of our favorite illustrated books at Skylark Manor is "Old French Fairy Tales" by Comtesse de Segur. It was magnificently drawn by the artist Virginia Frances Sterrett. She was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1900, and at the tender age of only 2 years old, she began to draw. She spent most of her time dreaming of far away places and putting her thoughts of these fantasies on paper. Her highly stylized imagery had a fluidity and grace beyond her years.
In 1919, Virginia was commissioned by the Penn Publishing Co. to illustrate a book of French fairy tales. She was just 19 years old. For the 16 pen and ink drawings and 8 water colors, she was paid a total of $500. The publisher then gave her an extra $250, for some extra line drawings to fill out the manuscript. This collaboration was a huge success, which led to the commission of illustrations for the 1921 edition of "Tanglewood Tales", by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Proserpina Refuses the Pomegranate

Again, Virginia's unique style proved to lift these tales to incredible heights with her fantastic abilities. During this time though, she struggled with failing health. Virginia had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1916. Her work schedule was often interrupted with the need to rest and recuperate.
In 1923, Virginia's family moved to southern California. Here, she became very active in the local art scene, but again, her health was on the decline. She entered a sanitarium.
In 1928, she was commissioned to illustrate "Arabian Nights". It took her 3 years to complete the work, which brought her more praise and recognition. Yet, another masterfully executed volume of captivating illustrations.
Unfortunately, in 1931, after a relapse of tuberculosis, Virginia died. She had been in the midst of another commission, for the Penn Publishing Co. of "Myths and Legends". It was never completed.
We hope you are encouraged by this introduction, to continue to discover more about this amazing and talented artist. Give in to a fantastical journey, to another place and time. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.... Ciao! Al


  1. Is this book not for sale? Couldn't find it at your shop. Illustrations are beautiful!

  2. We don't have a copy of this book for sale at the moment. -Al

  3. Following back. Thanks for linking up!