Highlighting the Work of Three Female Illustrators in Our Collection

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

To mark the special exhibition Childhood Favorites: 100 Years of Children’s Book Illustration (on view through March 17, 2024), we hope that you enjoy this work in our collection. If you visit the museum, this drawing and a related work shown below are on display.

Helen Adelaide Lamb (British, 1889‒1981)
Untitled Illustration, early-mid-20th century
Gouache and pencil on paper
10 ½”h x 10″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Dr. John & Mrs. Sylvie O’Brien, 2022.1.65
 
In this lighthearted, cozy work, a mother or nurse reads a picture book to a group of children at bedtime, a cherished activity that we have all enjoyed. On her left, one child eagerly points to the illustrations while the boy on the left looks up at the woman attentively. Clutching a stuffed animal, the girl on the lower left rubs her eye, either suggesting fatigue or possibly sadness at what she has heard in the story. On the far left, a toddler, clutching a toy with a cord, has fallen asleep on the sofa, a tender, sweet addition. Behind the figural group the shutters are opened, providing a nighttime view of a town and sky, filled with a crescent moon and bright stars.
 
While it is not known for certain, Helen Adelaide Lamb likely created this work as an embroidery design (see example below) or possibly an illustration for a children’s story. Her modest, unadorned figures and straightforward style reflect the influence of Kate Greenaway and Sarah Noble Ives (see below), key figures in the development of children’s book illustration during the early 1900s. In addition, her work was shaped by the Scottish Arts and Crafts Movement (then flourishing at the Glasgow School), which emphasized designs that combined curvilinear and rounded lines and advocated the revival of hand-made works over industrially produced objects.
 
A painter, designer, and illustrator, Lamb was born in Prestwick, Scotland, and was admitted to the Glasgow School of Art at the unusually young age of 15. She went on to teach art at St. Columba’s School, Kilmacolm, from 1918‒49 and participated in the Scottish embroidery revival. Lamb also became internationally renowned for her calligraphy and manuscript illuminations. Her work can be seen in Dunblane Cathedral, Dunblane Museum, and in the British Royal Collections. In 1927, the Church of Scotland printed copies of her cradle roll, certificates, and birthday cards for children. Lamb’s Girl’s Guildry and Women’s Guild cards were used in Scottish churches worldwide during her lifetime.

Later in her career, Lamb was commissioned to produce the Church of Scotland’s Loyal Addresses for King George V, King Edward VIII, George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II, which are in the collection of Windsor Castle. Lamb died in Dunblane and an octagonal room on the ground floor of the town’s cathedral is named in recognition of her outstanding artistic contributions to the building.    

Kate Greenaway (British, 1846–1901)
May Day, c. 1890
Pen and brown ink, watercolor and graphite pencil on wove paper
Collection the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA  

Sarah Noble Ives (American, 1864–1944)
Old Woman, Old Woman
c. 1910–15
Watercolor on board
Collection of Art Kandy, Los Angeles, CA