Frederick Richardson was a Chicago artist of the Art Nouveau style who created the artwork for many memorable children’s books and classic Western fables. His rich and colourful style and rejection of Modernism, including illustrating a book about the follies of the new abstract art, put him firmly in the traditional art sphere. That he is considered an ‘illustrator’ and somehow less than a ‘fine artist’ (like farcical faux-artists such as Kandinsky or Picasso) is the decision making of our ruling Modernist art establishment. Our anti-aesthetic masters and oppressors.
Richardson’s primary income came as a newspaper illustrator for the Chicago Daily News (1893 -), for which he traveled to gather illustrations of special events, indicative of how art was still highly valued despite the readiness of photography by that time.
Richardson came to illustrate editions of the works of Aesop’s Fables, Mother Goose, Hans Christian Andersen, Pinocchio, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, Peachling and Other Tales of Old Japan, The White Elephant and Other Tales, The Queen’s Museum, Edith Ogden Harrison’s The Enchanted House), and Frances Jenkins Olcott’s The Red Indian Fairy Book (1917), among other works.
For the excellent and little known thesis against modernism, The Revolt Against Beauty (1934), Richardson supplied pictures that parodied the work of Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh and other popular contemporary figures, as well as illustrating the horrors of industrialization and the loss of beauty due to the bored whims of trendy bourgeoise and the rise of mercantile values.
A Golden Age Illustrator well worth remembering, and his books well worth collecting for children, as counterpoint to the lazy, computer-generated, semi-abstract art they are likely to see in our contemporary plastic tomes.