Women in the Golden Age of Illustration: Florence Harrison
“The chief obstacle to a woman’s success is that she can never have a wife. Just reflect what a wife does for an artist.” 1
But what of the women, oft-encountered but too frequently forgotten pioneers of the feminine in this particular field of art? Despite the undoubted prestige accorded to the more popular personages ~ Beatrix Potter and Kate Greenaway being amongst the most enduring examples of their profession ~ there existed a positive profusion of more elusive, and arguably more fascinating, characters.
The painterly watercolours of Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale are second to none, especially none of her masculine peers. Wife of ceramicist William, the artist Evelyn de Morgan deserves equal billing with Burne-Jones, Virginia Frances Sterrett holds her own against Kay Neilson, but is practically unknown. The flowing Art Nouveau figures of the enigmatic Florence Harrison, and the Pre-Raphaelite poetry of her depictions, open a doorway into a world of women whose exquisite talents found expression in illustrating a cornucopia of well-loved fables & fairy tales.
Their work reflects a wonderful richness that enhanced editions of the most popular literature of the age, despite the necessary restraints of producing faithful rendition of an established story or poem in specific stages of the narrative that may have curtailed the fullness of their own flights of fancy. Arthurian legend was a much sought-after subject, whether bringing added life to Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King”, or depicting the heroes & heroines who inhabited ornate early works of William Morris. Harrison, her predecessors, contemporaries and successors left a lavish creative legacy that gives eloquent voice to the remarkable accomplishments of a fellowship of women whose light has been hidden for too long by the vagaries of fashionable taste.
The biographical notices of long-deceased illustrators are often dry affairs. Born. Died. Active from/to… Published work in… (insert here a short list of yellowed and often unremembered magazines). Bibliography… (summary list of impossible-to-find titles here). End of story.
More space is naturally consecrated to the imagery, and indeed many seem to disappear behind their work, leading studious lives, abstemious and serious, retired or unassuming. Add to that the perennial modesty, especially at the eve of the Victorian Age, and there is little to say.
It is a shame. Naturally, there is more. All of these illustrators au feminin lived lives, with all the events, momentous and quotidian, that supposes. They all lived lives in a world governed, dominated and managed by men. (English does not even have, as does French, a feminine form for “illustrator”.) They lived in a world where Art was done by men. (How long after her unpardonable commitment to an asylum for the insane and her lonely death was Camille Claudel’s genius duly recognized?) In a world where what was said about Art was said by men, and history written by them, small wonder they faded so quickly and demurely into the background. Small wonder indeed:
“Let men busy themselves with all that has to do with great art. Let women occupy themselves with those types of art which they have always preferred, such as pastels, portraits, and miniatures… To women, above all, falls the practice of the graphic arts, those painstaking arts which correspond so well to the role of abnegation and devotion which the honest woman happily fills here on earth.” — Léon Legrange in Gazette des beaux-arts, 1860
From left to right: The oft-perilous exercise of exhibiting at the grand Salons.
Cartoon by Phil May in Mr Punch in Bohemia, or The Lighter Side of Literary, Artistic and Professional Life, 1910(?) The Punch Library of Humour edited by J. A. Hammerton.
Far right: Non-identified artist’s print of Blackie & Son of Glasgow. The main Glasgow printing works. Stanhope Street and the old Villafield Press.
Agnes C. Blackie dates this as c. 1892 in Blackie & Son. 1809-1959. A Short History of the Firm (1959).
Walter Crane, in his comprehensive essay “Of the Decorative Illustration of Books Old and New”, first published in 1896, mentions only a few female illustrators, and that in passing and moreover only to underline their quaintness. (To be wholly unfair to Walter Crane – also in passing – perhaps his familiarity and ease with females and the female form dated from a century or two prior to that. Frederic Lord Leighton, is said to have exclaimed before Crane’s “The Renaissance of Venus”, exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877: “But my dear fellow, that is not Aphrodite, that is Alessandro!” Unable to avail himself of a female model, judged unacceptable by his wife, Crane had fallen back on one of the more popular Italian male models who were in vogue in London.)
To revisit the Victorian Age’s almost pathological attitude to the nude would be to belabour a horse long dead and buried, but the reluctance to expose delicate feminine constitutions to the male nude resulted in effectively disbarring women from formal art training. Progressive institutions, such as the Pennsylvania Academy, which attempted to promote equal treatment of male and female students could come under harsh fire. In Europe, prominent art schools did not provide women’s classes with a nude model until close to the turn of the century. The concern over the nude model can be illustrated by letters which the Pennsylvania Academy received from irate male observers, which expressed that the students’ fragile feminine natures “were violated by contact with… degraded women and the sight of nude males in the stifling heat of the Life Class.” Although women finally gained (marginal) access to academies in the 1860’s, they were not allowed to so much as glimpse male models. (Consider this: it was only in 1882 that the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in the British Parliament. Prior to that, upon marriage, all a woman’s property was transferred automatically to her husband’s control. Women had much to fight for.) No access to male models meant that history and mythology, considered the most exalted and noble subjects of the day, were beyond their grasp.
Parallel to this, a flood of art manuals “suitable” for female sensibilities did their best to maintain a status quo, and keep women artists occupied, lest they be tempted to adventure into realms deemed unfit for them.
Woman must confine herself to those subjects which are allied to her sphere… children, animals, fruit, flowers, etc. But when a woman desires to paint large-sized pictures, she is…lost. — Marie-Élisabeth Boulanger Cavé, Drawing from Memory, 1868
It all paints a bleak picture of the opportunities for women in art. But suppose they should by sheer force of will, clear all these hurdles, would their art be appreciated objectively, judged for what it was worth, or discounted because it was by a woman’s hand? Chances are the latter would be the case.
At the risk of lifting words out of context and not being able to supply a representative range of opinions, here are (quite) a few lines from The Gentleman’s Magazine. The article, written in the fall of 1893, and signed Sylvanus Urban, is entitled “Woman’s Place in Art” and if you’ll pardon the length, it seems appropriate to reproduce a substantial portion. Sylvanus Urban was apparently the pen name adopted by the editors of The Gentleman’s Magazine (created in 1731 by Edward Cave, the first person to use the word “magazine” to describe a periodical), one of the most influential publications of its time. (The missing fragments of the first three phrases in the second section are, alas, absent from the scan of the article available on line.)
Are women artistically inferior to men? Here is a question that
gallantry predisposes one to answer in the negative. Some-
thing might even be urged in favour of such a response. Not until
recently have we given woman the independence and education
which foster the highest development of intellect. Professor Ferrero,
however, in the ‘‘New Review,” will have no coquetting with the
subject, and says that the existence of this inferiority on the part of
women is self-evident He brings once more forward the well-known
and often repeated facts that ” although there is hardly a woman of
a certain degree of refinement who cannot play one or more instru-
ments, yet there is not one who can claim to be a composer of
genius.” In literature they may claim Sappho, Elizabeth Barrett
Browning, George Sand, George Eliot, &c, but in the figurative arts
“Sekani, Maraini, and Rosa Bonheur about exhaust the list.”
Besides a general lack of the creative power in art, women, according
to the Professor, do not even understand physical beauty, and
“remain cold, not only before a Venus of Medici, but, which is
stranger still, before an Apollo Belvedere, of which famous statue a
lady not very long ago could find no more appropriate remark to
make than that the face bore a striking resemblance to her hall-porter.”
This is one of the cruellest cuts ever dealt to the fair sex. To be
sure, the story concerning the lady does not count for much. One
is not typical of all. I could, moreover, find many masculine utter-
ances which would serve as parallels. I am not even prepared to
accept as generally true the statement that women do not understand
Causes of Her Alleged Inferiority.
I SHOULD not have reopened a controversy…
I not wished to draw attention to the…
asserted inferiority. The primary…
lie in the sensual coldness of women as compared with men.” This,
too, is a hard saying. Once more, too, the question arises, Is it true?
If so, the general theories concerning women that have been advanced
by men are worthless. Beginning with early literature and mythology,
and progressing down to to-day, I find that men have been wont to
regard passion as a gift accorded to women in larger measure than
to men. I need not refer with Mr. Swinburne to “The Maenad and
the Bassarid.” I will only ask if any lines of Byron are better known
than those in which he compares the love of man as of itself “a thing
apart” with woman’s, which is “her whole existence.” The subject
is one I scarcely care to follow out. I do not, however, think that
the Professor’s theory is so well established as to justify any serious
deductions from it. A second reason for inferiority is said to be the
comparative rarity in woman of ‘’ the synthetic faculty, which in its
most exalted manifestations becomes genius.” A third is the weak-
ness of woman’s muscular structure, and the fact that her muscular
sensations are consequently less intense. She takes less part in the
great struggle for existence, and, consequently, ” feels in a less degree
the tragic emotions of life.” Destined ‘‘by Nature for the part of
nurse in the battle of life, she cannot adequately and with full power
depict its passionate and bloody episodes.”
Provinces in Art Woman Can Command.
In matters where mere prettiness is concerned the Professor finds
in woman a lively appreciation and a fair inventive faculty.
She will prefer a Watteau to a Michelangelo, a Coppée to a Dostojew-
ski, for ” the reason that graceful objects awaken by association a
number of those gentle images which repose in the mind of every
woman, especially if she be a mother, and cause her to worship in
ecstasy before the graces of a baby.” Further into this question I
cannot go. I have not been intentionally unjust to the writer, and
have, so far as I am able, given his exact words. Deprived of their
context, and the explanations afforded, they are not, of course, the
same thing. It is, however, impossible to force into a few sentences
matter that occupies the whole of a thoughtful and intelligent, if not
quite convincing, essay. Not wholly condemnatory of woman’s
art work is the essayist. In the imitatory arts, such as dramatic repre-
sentation, they excel. The names of celebrated actresses are much
more numerous than those of great actors. Here, again, I am at
issue with him. In the primitive arts concerned with the adornment
of the person, of weapons and vases, and the decoration of dwellings,
woman has taken up the place vacated by men. In regard to cos-
tume, some enthusiasm even is shown, and some dresses are said to
be “really genial creations.” Other artistic matters are said to be
within woman’s reach, and the art of conversation is declared to be
specially her province. In this ” woman has always been a queen,
from the time of the Greeks, when the celebrated courtesans kept
around them almost a Court of illustrious men, down to the last cen-
tury, when the flower of French intelligence assembled in the salons
of Madame de Longueville or Mademoiselle d’Epinay.”
Difference of Mental Conditions between the Sexes.
I SHALL not dream of impugning the gallantry of the Professor, nor
will I dispute all his premises. In a sense, what he says is true.
The same delicacy of constitution that has prevented woman from
taking part, as a rule, in war or the chase has debarred her from com-
peting with men in other fields. It may at once be admitted that women
can no more point to a Homer, a Shakespeare, a Dante, a Rabelais, a
Goethe, than they can to a Julius Caesar, a Marlborough, or a Nelson.
It is not, however, easily conceivable that they should. Without
being consciously repressed by men, they have, until recent days, been
discouraged from competition with men, In the case of a few women,
as Queen Elizabeth, Lady Jane Grey, and so forth, an education
advanced in some respects has been assigned them. Nine-tenths of
the women alive at this moment even obtain no education whatever,
and over immense districts they are mere household drudges, or
ministers to masculine pleasure. It is too early as yet to see what
will be the result of the species of academic training now, for the first
time, brought within the reach of any considerable section of woman-
hood. We are not yet far advanced in the study of heredity, and we
know not how long it may be before woman throws off the influences
of centuries of restriction, or before man generously reconciles him-
self to find in woman a competitor as well as a companion, an equal
instead of a subordinate.
The article is even more pernicious as it tries to appear balanced and fair, solicitous and respectful. Small wonder that the women who left their names in art were truly exceptional. (An aside: the article was written nearly five centuries – half a millennium – after these words: “If it were customary to send little girls to school and to teach them the same subjects as are taught to boys, they would learn just as fully and would understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences.” – Christine de Pisan, Cité des Dames, 1405)
Some influential figures did have progressive views; John Ruskin is a prime example, but they were largely voices in a wilderness of genteel condescendence and smug hypocrisy.
We may also lay the blame on a falling-out-of-fashion of the texts they illustrated – Morris and Tennyson no longer appeal to the general public, and are rarely read for pleasure, or outside of university seminars, and by readers whose focus is on pure literature, not on the dated chemistry of word and image. And, to remove the illustrations themselves from their context, although galleries of imagery are an acceptable option, is to isolate them irremediably from the context in which they were conceived, viewed and appreciated.
Their value, though, remains intact, and enhanced by that otherworldliness of a glimpse into another time and place. In the words of Baudelaire: “the best account of a work of art could be another work of art, a poem or a piece of prose…” Reversing that logic, the illustrations to stories and poems are by extension works of art in themselves, though the true appreciation of their worth is obscured to us, as we can no longer truly appreciate the poetry of the 19th century. But this is our shortcoming. Our modernity requires of us that we bridge those gaps if we wish to appreciate these works of art for what they are: glimpses into the thoughts and lives of the women who painted them.
To imagine the sheer quantity of illustrative and narrative art produced during the latter half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th is difficult today (although we ourselves feel bombarded by imagery of every sort). Periodicals, weeklies, the daily press – thousands of publications flourished, endured or vanished practically overnight. The Industrial Revolution witnessed the emergence of a literate middle class, and more importantly for the ancestors of today’s tradition of fantasy illustration, the emergence of the new nation-states sparked a renewal of interest for national epics, folktale and all things recounting the founding mythology of peoples.
All this meant an avid appetite on the part of the public, and ample opportunities – even for women – for illustrators of every genre. Illustration was also less a man’s exclusive territory, patrolled by the vocal and often vehement defenders or this or that genre, illustrators were less exposed to the public, and the working relations with publishers more discrete than exhibiting in the grand salons filled with madding crowds. An illustrator could be – as now – hard working and retiring, and could, in a sense, hide behind his or her work. Some ended up hiding very well.
Emma Florence Harrison ~
Working in London and an RA exhibitor 1887-91, Florence Harrison (as she is always known) is chiefly remembered for the type of book shown here, illustrated in an attractive late Pre-Raphaelite style especially indebted to Rossetti. She also illustrated books of verse by herself. According to Peppin and Micklethwait, her later work, published by Dent, is more conventional.4
All in all, it is a paltry paean, especially for someone whose draughts(wo)manship was far superior to Rossetti’s, despite her supposed debt to the former. Also, she never exhibited at the Royal Academy; the author mistakes her for the landscape painter.
Florence Harrison’s entry in Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: The Twentieth Century, by Brigid Peppin and Lucy Micklethwait (John Murray, London. 1983) is indeed succinct:
Worked as Florence Harrison. Children’s illustrator and verse writer. Her early work combines the influence of Art Nouveau with characterization similar to that of Randolph Caldecott. Later, when she was working for Dent, her drawings became more commonplace, ending as a pastiche of contemporary styles.
Any resemblance to Caldecott is purely in the eyes of Peppin and Micklethwait. (Some of her early work is more akin to that of Jessie M. King.) With all due respect, Harrison’s work is far more elegant, possesses a far greater depth of poetry and feeling and none of Caldecott’s tendency toward caricature – and even less of his muted palette. (Also, if I may be forgiven, what on earth is a “pastiche of contemporary styles”?) Once again, she is summed up and short-changed in one brief mention.
Alan Horne, in The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators (1994) is nothing if not curt. (Emma) Florence Harrison’s life is resumed in two words: “See Houfe.” While he refers the reader to Simon Houfe’s “The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914”, Florence Harrison’s flourishing dates – 1877 to 1925 – are borrowed from Peppin & Micklethwait (Houfe gives the dates of 1887 to 1914). Both are incorrect. Florence Harrison continued on with Blackie into the 30’s and with other publishers into the early 1940’s. One of her last published illustrations dates from 1941 and depicts a German warplane over London – a world far removed from Pre-Raphaelite shores.
Houfe’s dictionary was first published in 1978; a revised edition, with 250 supplementary entries, brings the number of artists to 2700, with a lengthy introduction to the world of the 19th-century illustrator. Sandwiched between Charles Harrison (black and white artist and cartoonist) and George L. Harrison (figure and domestic painter), the entry concerning Florence is not overly helpful:
Harrison, Emma Florence, fl.1887-1914
Figure painter and illustrator. She was working in London from 1887 and specialised in illustrating poetry and children’s books in a later Pre-Raphaelite style deriving something as well from William Morris.
Illus: In the Fairy Ring (1908), Poems of Christina Rossetti (1910), Guinevere (Tennyson, 1912), Early Poems of William Morris (1914). Exhib: RA 1887-91.
An Emma Florence Harrison was apparently also recorded as a student of the Glasgow School of Art, renowned for such alumni as the Macdonald sisters & Jessie M. King. The fabulously fluid style of her black & white drawings and page decorations certainly reflects a degree of similarity with the Glaswegian Art Nouveau design work of the period spanning the 1880s to the 1920s. Except Florence never attended Glasgow. The school confirms they have no record of her.
However, more recent research by Florence Harrison’s ipso facto biographer Mary Rosalind Jacobs5 has shed a good deal more light. Of known facts, there are indeed few, and they continue to be misconstrued. “By A Woman’s Hand: Illustrators of the Golden Age”, edited by Mary Carolyn Waldrep (Dover Publications, 2010) takes Mary Jacobs’ research into account, although still claims Florence Harrison exhibited at the Royal Academy in London (which would have put her first showing at the age of 10), as well as concluding that she was “an Australian artist.”
What Florence Harrison has bequeathed is not so much memorable moments of her life, but her beautiful imagery.
Florence Harrison’s dedication to her mother in Elfin Song, 1912
AT SEA ~ The Distant Shores of Home
A little girl sits atop a rock. A wave sweeps past to froth in a crest behind; a ship with billowing sails follows the same swirling curve. A star appears in the sky directly overhead. The little girl holds a book or page in her hands, but she is not looking at it, she is gazing out to the sea we cannot see. A simple vignette; two scrolls announce in turn, in a stylish Art Nouveau script: “Dedication” and “To my mother”. The dedication appeared in “Elfin Song”, one of Florence Harrison’s first books, the only dedication she ever made.
According to Mary Rosalind Jacobs, the little girl is Florence, the rock is her mother, the ship her father and the star a reference to a maritime ancestor John Harrison, who was instrumental in the quest to accurately measure longitude.
The sea may have occupied a particular place in Florence’s life. Florence Susan Harrison was born aboard ship, on November 2nd, 1877. Florence’s father Norwood was Master Mariner and Captain of the clipper Windsor Castle, bound for Australia with 366 immigrants aboard. Florence was born while the ship was moored in Moreton Bay, just off the mouth of Brisbane River. The Brisbane Courier printed the birth announcement 6 days later, in its edition of November 8th, 1877. Florence was the second daughter of Norwood and Lucy Susan (née Thomas); an elder sister, Edith Alice, had been born in Eltham, Kent, eighteen months earlier. The Windsor Castle left Brisbane on December 8th, bound for London with a cargo of wood, tallow, meat, animal hides and timber and 36 passengers.
Harrisons appear in the British census of 1881, living in Folkestone, Kent. The address given is a boarding school for young girls, managed by her maiden aunt Elizabeth Harrison. There is no mention of Florence’s older sister, who might have died and been buried at sea. As Master Mariner and Captain, Norwood Harrison had the right to be accompanied by his family, and may have taken them on other voyages. The Harrisons are absent from the 1891 census, but 1901 finds Florence (now aged 23) living with her mother and two younger brothers, Arthur and Godfrey, in Leyton, East London. There is no mention of Norwood.
The dedication of Elfin Song, one of her early books, dates from 1912, the year her mother died. Perhaps the little girl is a daughter lost, left on the shore by a mother forever departed. The father may well be the ship, coming and going with the tide, rarely home. The star is perhaps the older sister Florence would never have known. It is the portrait of a person shipwrecked and alone on life’s shores…
Of course, it may be none of these things; the small drawing contains all the ambiguity of a voice gone silent, of a sign language whose meaning is lost.
Close-ups of Florence Harrison’s free and elegant brushwork.
Left: Illustration from the Rhyme of a Run, 1907
Centre: Illustration from Tennyson’s Mariana: “She wept, I am aweary….” 1912.
Right: Illustration from Tennyson’s Ulysses: “To Strive, to Seek, to Find and not to Yield.”, 1912.
All of these images have seen their values “pushed” in Photoshop, in order to make more clearly legible the retouching in gouache and to bring to the fore any hints of penciled underdrawing. Both are much less marked in the originals themselves.
AT WORK ~ Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Florence Harrison provided a great number of illustrations for the publisher Blackie and Sons, though other than statements of advances and royalties paid, we know nothing of her relationship with them. Nor do we know anything of her life as an illustrator: what her studio resembled, or her manner of working.
The closest glimpse that might be provided is through her originals. The printed illustrations, with their delicate washes, or the black and white plates, mask the energy and spontaneity of her line work, much of which appears to have been done with a brush. The originals are in no way studied and painstakingly executed, they retain much of the artist whose hand and brush find lines as they go. Areas have been painted over in white gouache – shadowy bluish pentimento apparent where the ink has crept upward through the paint over the years.
It’s not known what formal art training – if indeed any at all – Florence may have received. It’s unlikely she ever set foot in an art school, but if she did, her passage there has not yet come to light. Her draughtsmanship displays a natural ease and grasp of the human face and figure, the proportions are elegant, the gestures sure. She also excels at the abbreviated foreshortening inherent in the rendering of space with line and wash, especially in the portrait format most books require. Some of her perspectives and framed spaces are as audacious as those of Alma-Tadema. If she was entirely self-taught, then her accomplishments are all the more remarkable.
Did Florence travel to Glasgow regularly? Did she make her way through crowded platforms, portfolio under her arm, search for her seat, securely stow her precious paintings, vowing to make sure she did not forget them upon arriving in Scotland? Of all of the commonplace things every illustrator knows so well – the meetings, the moments when artwork is delivered and revealed to the publisher, the first copies of one’s own books in the post, glimpsing the books themselves in the shops – we have no trace. Of the trivialities of the profession – procuring paper, finding pigments and selecting brushes – we can only guess. (If you’ll pardon an aside, these are the things I can most easily picture, most completely imagine, and only because these very trivialities compose such a part of my own day. How ill-prepared we truly are to imagine lives long past.)
It’s tempting to speculate what the Rossettis, Tennysons and Morrises of this world would have thought of Florence Harrison’s work. Tennyson is said to have remarked, somewhat dismissively “The illustrator should always adhere to the words of the poet!” to Holman Hunt regarding the latter’s painting of The Lady of Shallot (completed 1905), which he felt did not depict his poetic intentions.
According to George Somes Layard, in “Tennyson and his Pre-Raphaelite illustrators”, (Elliot Stock, London, 1894), that particular sally must have been an exception:
“And this reminds me, in passing, of the curious indifference which Tennyson seems…to have manifested towards the pictorial and plastic arts. How different, for example, is this quiet submission to the independent pictorial treatment of his literary creations, without hint or interference on his part, to the wild excitement and fevers into which Dickens used to work himself over the illustrations to his novels!
…it will be remembered, he wrote to Forster: ‘Good heaven! in the commonest and most literal construction of the text, it is all wrong… I can’t say what pain and vexation it is to be so utterly misrepresented. I would cheerfully have given a hundred pounds to keep this illustration out of the book.’ This was but one of many such outbursts. But how far otherwise it is with Tennyson! Any objection that he did make… was of the practically useless ex post facto kind. Nor was it only in the matter of illustrations to his own work that he seems to have been unconcerned and incurious, but he appears to have through life manifested a general insensibility to pictorial art, which strikes one at first as something more than remarkable. The story is well known of Lord John Russell coming up to him, on his return from Italy, and asking how he had enjoyed the pictures and works of art in Florence. ‘I liked them very much’, said Tennyson, ‘but I was bothered because I could not get any English tobacco for love or money. A lady told me I could smuggle some from an English ship if I heavily bribed the Custom-house officers; but I didn’t do that, and came away.’ ”
While akin in spirit to the Pre-Raphaelites of more than half a century before, Florence Harrison’s work is resolutely “illustrative” and not “decorative”, a theme dear to the heart of Walter Crane, who dismissed any artist he felt lavished too much attention on the former to the detriment of the latter. (Crane also dismissed all illustrations that were not English, unless he felt the occasional foreigner had successfully assimilated British values.)
According to Debra N. Mancoff, in “The Arthurian Revival in Victorian Art” “Harrison drew upon the full repertoire of recent illustration: medievalized borders and medallions echoing the Kelmscott style, attenuated and posturing figures in chapter headings reminiscent of King’s embellishments, bizarre foliate forms inspired by Beardsley, black-and-white full-page reproductions suggesting a romantic vision of medieval woodcuts, and glowing full-page color plates recalling the late Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic.”
Florence Harrison has largely discarded William Morris’ heavy florid floral curlicues that framed his Arthurian illustrations and endured in less attractive forms for generations of publishers to come, she reserves her decorative flourishes for vignettes and headers, rarely putting more than a simple rule around her illustrations. Her modernism is contained in her shedding of decorative convention, and a concentration on simple line and image.
In “Illustrating Camelot” by Barbara Tepa Lupack with Alan Lupack, her line work is aptly compared to that of Jessie M. King, although “Harrison’s penwork was not nearly as fine as King’s, and her designs were not nearly as intricate.” Perhaps this equally helps explain the enduring of Jessie M. King’s work and the fading of Florence Harrison’s: the former is still admired for aesthetic qualities independently of the theme illustrated, whereas the popularity of Florence’s work has declined with that of her authors.
Illustration for “Summer Dawn”, from The Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
IN BOHEMIA ~ A short stay in the artist’s studio
What were her relations to her peers; painters and illustrators? For a time, during 1928 and 1929, Florence Harrison’s address is given as The Studio, 47 Redcliffe Road, South Kensington. In the Victorian era and early decades of the twentieth century, South Kensington & Chelsea apparently became both home and workplace for an ever-changing fraternity of male and female artists. Several prominent painters, including members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, appear to have stayed in the vicinity at some point, taking studios as well as private houses.
Arthur Ransome, in his anecdotal “Bohemia in London”, (1907) recalled in the chapter “Old and New Chelsea” that when Rossetti came to live at number 16 Cheyne Walk nine months after the death of his wife Lizzie Siddal, “In the back garden he kept all manner of strange beasts – zebus, armadillos, and the favourite of all, the wombat, an animal almost canonised by the Pre-Raphaelites.”
Following this tradition, it is known that amongst the number of later residents were several women sculptors who occupied studios in Redcliffe Road (numbers 12, 52 and 23 circa 1915-16,1922-23 & 1931-32 respectively). It is also recorded that the painter, illustrator and graphic artist Edward Bawden (1903-1989) lived at number 58 in the late twenties, along with the watercolourist and wood engraver Eric Ravilious and Scottish painter Douglas Percy Bliss, who shared a studio there in 1925 whilst in their final year at the Royal College of Art.
Cover illustration from The Man in the Moon (Blackie & Son Limited,1918) and “Winter and Windy-Weather”, printed in the 1922 Blackie’s Girls’ Annual
ABROAD ~ Make-Believe in Bruges
The records of Blackie’s show that monies owed to Florence were sent to Bruges from 1908 to 1914, and again from 1918 to 1920. (One has to assume that the break between those dates was caused by the onset and duration of the Great War.) What took her to Bruges? (And what took her back there again, to a Belgium devastated by the war?) Perhaps contacts established during her years at her aunt’s boarding school, where many of the pupils and teachers came from France and Belgium. Did she learn French or perhaps Flemish? Did she admire the work of the Flemish painters of the late Middle Ages: Memling, Bouts or Van Der Goes, or did she prefer to them the Symbolists Khnopff, Levy-Dhurmer, Delville or Degouve de Nunques, the world of Bruges-la-Morte?
Bruges appears in many of her illustrations, transformed by the artist into a medieval town out of time, recognizably far from British shores. Florence Harrison captures the Gothic verticality of Bruges as well as the calmer lines of the canals flanked by convents. Some of her storybook children sport wooden shoes and Netherlandish coifs and dresses, but otherwise, for the time being at least, her life in Bruges remains a mystery. She would certainly have been well acquainted with the architecture of the almshouses and guildhalls, the cobbled streets and the canals. Bruges is a romantic northern Venice even now, despite the hordes of eager tourists and sightseeing boats. In Florence’s day, it would have been an illustrator’s paradise of inspiration. No wonder Flanders appears in her paintings.Perhaps her own apparently self-reliant spirit was drawn to the beguinage, once the home of lay sisters who chose not to take holy orders but instead retained a certain degree of independence. The exact location of her own lodgings, however, remains elusive.
“..it was their last hour,
A madness of farewells.”
From Tennyson’s “Guinevere and Other Poems”, Blackie & Son, Glasgow, 1912
AT HEART ~ Romance and fantasy
Although Florence Harrison breathed such passionate life into Arthurian romance, she concealed her own equally well. She would have been of those generations who saw husbands and beaux march off during the First World War, many never to return. Admittedly, she was illustrating the romantic fantasies of others’ lives and imaginations, and so managing to conceal, or choosing not to reveal, her own. Impossible not to wonder how much it was about herself and her own vision, perhaps in her heart she was thinking or imagining or dreaming just as William Morris was idealizing love. In the absence of words of her own, it is unlikely that we will ever know.
“Rise up, and look and listen, Galahad”
From “Sir Galahad, A Christmas Mystery”, published in “The Early Poems of William Morris”. Blackie & Son Ltd. 1914
AT HEART ~ A Change of Faith
It may have been in Bruges that Florence Harrison began her conversion to Catholicism. What motivated her conversion is a mystery, but it may have been the result of her friendship with fellow convert Enid M. Dinnis (1875-1942), who she met in Bruges. Florence provided many illustrations for Dinnis’ texts from 1927 onwards, notably for the American National Catholic review The Sign. Whether for religious or economic reasons, the editors of The Sign demanded that all work be done in pen and ink. Florence’s work, which had before been characterized by her beautiful palette, was now reduced to a somber and strict black and white. Her final illustration for Dinnis was published in the July 1943 issue of The Sign, accompanying the final page of a story entitled “Dinah’s Fairy Godmother”, which was discovered in Dinnis’ typewriter after her death.
In a way, Florence Harrison’s oeuvre mirrors a changing world, from the vivid Indian summer of the romantic Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite eras to a world drained of colour and joy by the tragedy of two world wars.
“She stood on inner ground that budded flowers.”
From “Poems by Christina Rossetti”, Blackie & Son, 1910
AT REST ~ An Unmarked Grave on the South Coast
With the advent of World War II, Florence fled London to the safety of a rented flat in East Sussex, where she lived with her cousin Mary Isobel Harrison in Hove, just to the west of Brighton. Mary died in 1943; Florence continued to live at the same address. She succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 78, on January 5th, 1955.
Florence Harrison is buried in an unmarked grave in Hove Cemetery. Her last will requested that her cat be humanely disposed of, and bequeathed her modest possessions to members of her family and to friends.
Lingering over the lengthy bibliography, it’s impossible not to reflect on the givers of the books as gifts, the small and eager hands leafing through the pages of story & rhyme; educational and “Reward” books, as some were called, to encourage excellence; volumes of Pre-Raphaelite poetry and verse; all enhanced and indeed made memorable by the luxuriant imagery which flowed from Florence’s own elegant vision.
Those who bestowed these treasures, those who eagerly received and enjoyed them, all are gone long ago, as Florence herself. Now there are only the tattered picture books, filled with the glowing lines of an almost forgotten hand. But beyond the figure in a faded photograph, in portraits of glimmering beauty and enchantment her creative spirit endures.
Perhaps the conclusion to any attempt to breathe life into the biography of Florence Harrison might be left to William Morris, with a few lines from his epic poem, written in 1868-70, “The Earthly Paradise”:
Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time,
Why should I strive to set the crooked straight?
Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme;
Beats with light wing against the ivory gate,
Telling a tale not too importunate;
To those who in the sleepy region stay,
Lulled by the singer of an empty day.
“Although I had always been fond of poetry and long admired the works of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, it was only when my children had left for University that I could begin to devote more time to matters outside the home. Visits to Art Galleries enabled me to understand who they were and to begin to appreciate the beauty of the works of such artists as Rossetti and Burne-Jones.
During a visit to an antiques fair in 2005, I came across a vellum-covered book containing stunning illustrations by a previously unheard-of artist named Florence Harrison. The asking price was far above what I had ever considered paying for any book at that time, so I contented myself with making a mental note of her name in an attempt to discover more about the mysterious figure whose works seemed so spectacularly to capture the essence of the Pre-Raphaelites, but whose name had never featured in any of the books I had previously read on the subject. If only I could have read the poems and shown the vibrant pictures to my children whilst they were growing up !
The sources I consulted all said the same thing “Little is known about her except that her full name was Emma Florence Harrison who studied in Glasgow and had exhibited at The Royal Academy between 1887 and 1891”. Such was my enthusiasm and admiration for her works that, armed with this information, I began a diligent search for the elusive artist in census records and Glasgow University archives. I quickly established that no such person had ever been a student there, but was able to consult what remained of the publisher Blackie’s records for whom she had worked, held in the same building. This in turn led to a trip – albeit unproductive – to Bruges where she had apparently spent some time working.
Census records enabled me to expand upon the bare details of her family background and history, and eventually to set up a website devoted to her life and works. In the meantime I had managed to acquire many hundreds of her original drawings and had assembled a comprehensive library of books containing her work.
Imagine my astonishment when, a bare ten days after going live on the internet, I received a message from Sydney, Australia saying that my information was incorrect and that it was a case of mistaken identity. My informant was the last remaining family member of the real artist Florence Susan Harrison who they said was still alive in 1953 when they had last paid a visit to England. Their claims proved to be accurate and I was thus able to renew my research, this time from a position of knowledge.
What had begun as just one small part of my life, soon turned into an all-consuming effort to ensure that Florence’s true worth could be recognised by those with an interest in illustrators of the early 20th century. To this date, the previous inaccuracies are still being repeated by Galleries, Auction Houses and Dealers, but thanks in great measure to help from several influential and like-minded people, her true identity is gradually achieving a greater audience and becoming accepted as fact.
From those early beginnings of merely personal interest, I now find myself having become a focal point for those interested in her life and works. May she now take her place alongside her other gifted contemporaries and be accorded the long overdue recognition she deserves.”
Rhymes and Reasons by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1905).
The Rhyme of a Run and Other Verse by Florence Harrison. Blackie & Son Limited, London. nd (1907).
Blackie’s Children’s Annual. London: Blackie and Son Ltd., MCMVIII.
Includes an illustrated verse by Florence.
Florence Harrison subsequently produced a variety of illustrative work published in further Blackie’s Children’s Annuals for the years 1907- 1922, with a final and fleeting inclusion in the 1940 edition.
1908: Includes a coloured frontispiece and several verses by Florence. Decoration and illustration to another story (“A little bunch of Primroses” by M. Batchelor). The front of this annual was adorned with a pictorial design by another of the distinguished illustrators of the day, whose name is more readily recognised: Charles Robinson.
1909: Includes Florence’s illustration to a story by Helen Broadbent, “Who are you Ganderfeather”, and her own illustrated verse. Again Charles Robinson contributed the front design, and H.M. Caldwell Company published the US edition.
1910: Florence contributed one of her own verses (“Sand and Sea”) to this, complete with full-page coloured illustration, as well as several depictions and a decoration for another Helen Broadbent story,The Princess seeks a Shadow. The pictorial design for the front was again by Charles Robinson, and there was an edition published by the H.M. Caldwell Company, New York, for the US market.
1911: With illustrations by Florence for various verses and a story by Helen Broadbent.
1912: Includes several verses by Florence, two of which with full-page coloured illustration.
1913: Includes two illustrated verses by Florence.
1914: With endpapers & various illustrative inclusions by Florence.
1915: Pictorial endpapers and various illustrative/decorative additions by Florence.
1916: Pictorial endpapers and various illustrations by Florence.
1917: With pictorial endpapers, title-page and illustrations to story and verse by Florence.
1918: With endpapers and a frontispiece relating to her own included verse “Tree in the Wood”, along with various illustrations, head & tailpieces to other pages and poems.
1919: Pictorial endpapers, varied verse and illustration, also additional art for other authors’ work.
1920: With various contributions by Florence.
1921: Including Florence’s work.
1922: Head & tailpieces to a verse by the eighteenth-century poet Annie Ingram.
1923: With frontispiece and an illustrated verse from Florence.
1940: Single tailpiece in line for another writer’s story.
In the Fairy Ring by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1908).
“So excellent are the drawings that they earn Miss Harrison a very high place among the illustrators of children’s books.” The Pall Mall Magazine.
Poems by Christina Rossetti.
Introduction by Alice Meynell. Blackie and Son Limited, London, Glasgow, Bombay. 1910.
When Christina Rossetti’s poems were originally published, Joseph Pennell, in “A Golden Decade in English Art”, pp 112-124, the Savoy Magazine Volume I, 1896, declared of the original edition: ‘But in 1862, Miss Rossetti’s “Poems”, illustrated by her brother with two drawings, came out; Rossetti also designed the cover. The illustrations can hardly be called satisfactory as illustrations, for the two Lizzies are quite different – the first a country girl; the second, a stately Rossetti woman. The second edition contains two more drawings, which were added in 1866. William Morris engraved the frontispiece to this book, signed “M MF & Co.” ‘
Perhaps he would have been more impressed by Florence’s exquisite portrayals of that same poetry. Originally commissioned to provide a cover, twenty-four full-colour plates, forty-eight black and white plates and one hundred and twenty vignettes, after two years of work, she delivered thirty-six colour plates and thirty-six in black and white.
The Bookman (American literary journal, 1895-1933) special Christmas number for 1910 included some of the illustrations. It was later re-issued by The Gresham Publishing Co. (an apparent subsidiary of Blackie’s) in 1916.
There was also a signed, limited edition of 350 copies bound in full vellum.
Florence Harrison brought to this volume some of her most recognisable and oft-reproduced illustrations, ethereal and evocative by turn, to enhance the soulful and melancholy verses of the sad-eyed sister of Dante Gabriel, to whose own paintings Florence apparently owed a debt. Nevertheless, her personal representations of feminine beauty far outshine the heavy-lidded portrayals of his own Muses. Although no particular model for Florence’s images of women has been noted, she seemed to show a particular predilection for frequently picturing red-haired females, who are certainly in evidence here. Laura & Lizzie in ‘Goblin Market’ spring to mind, as well as others. Of exceptional note is the exquisite rendering of the dreamlike figure for the line ‘She stood on inner ground that budded flowers’, from the poem ‘From House to Home.’
Blackie’s Sixpenny, Ninepenny and Shilling Series included covers by Florence for a variety of these titles.
Lesser works for that year include a frontispiece for “All Hallowe’en” in Little Folks magazine, 1910, Vol. 74.
Catalogue of San-Kro-Mura easy-clean wallpaper.
This appears to be an odd addition to the bibliography, but the images it contained were apparently intended to be used in a frieze or as cut-out panels. Florence’s ‘contribution’ (the company, Schmitz-Horning Co. of Cleveland, owned the copyright by arrangement with H.M. Caldwell Company of New York) was a set of four coloured illustrated panels, and a further six panels, all of which were reproduced with some amendments from The Rhyme of a Run.
Elfin Song, a Book of Verse and Pictures by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie & Son Limited, nd (1912).
A review of the book by critic Stephenson Browne appeared in the “Boston Literary News”, August 24th 1913.
~ The H. M. Caldwell Company is beginning to bring out its Autumn and holiday books, and among those in preparation one of the quaintest is Miss Florence Harrison’s “Elfin Song,” illustrated by the author’s own pictures of the elves, a naughty little company, as they are seen gathered about the black haired little hero, piping gayly to him and offering him mysterious enchanted fruits. The author’s first venture, “The Rhyme of a Run” is still selling well. ~
Guinevere and Other Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson. London: Blackie & Son Limited, 1912.
Issued in a publisher’s box, this was one of Blackie’s sumptuous gift books, destined, as was a good deal of Florence’s earlier work, as much for adults as for children.
Goblin Market edited by Edith Fry, MA. One of Blackie’s Smaller English Classics series. London: Blackie and Son Limited, 1912.
This contained limited illustration presumably from Florence’s previous work done for Poems by Christina Rossetti (see above, 1910).
Blackie’s New Systematic English Readers, First Reader, by Eleanor I Chambers. Glasgow: Blackie and Son Limited., nd (1913).
Includes various verses illustrated by Florence, and one from her own pen.
Blackie’s New Systematic English Readers also included Florence Harrison’s work in the following years:
1914: Various verses illustrated by Florence.
1915: Various illustrations by Florence to assorted verses.
1916: Illustrations to the verses of various popular poets.
The Early Poems of William Morris. London : Blackie & Son Limited, 1913.
An ornate collection of courtly tales, speaking of love, chivalry and downfall, decorated with black & white drawings and full-page colour plates featuring damsels of fragile beauty, bold knights of fierce demeanour, and handsome but doomed heroes.
Under the Rainbow Arch by Margaret Cameron, in the ‘Rambler Nature Books’ series. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1915).
This has a full-colour frontispiece by Florence captioned “Cloud ships and the sunbeams bridge”, which is repeated in part as a pictorial inlay on the front cover.
Tales in Rhyme and Colour by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1916)
With many and varied illustrations, together with verses, some of which reprinted from The Rhyme of a Run.
Tinkler Johnny by Agnes Grozier Herbertson. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1916).
Contains a full range of Florence’s illustrative work.
My Fairy Tale Book. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1916).
Florence’s illustrations here were reprinted from Blackie’s Children’s Annual, 1910.
The House of Bricks by Agnes Grozier Herbertson. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1917).
Fully illustrated by Florence.
Blackie’s Book of New Fairy Tales, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1917).
With illustrations by Florence reprinted from Blackie’s Children’s Annual 1910.
The Pixy Book by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1918).
Fully illustrated by Florence. Contains work reprinted from In the Fairy Ring.
The Man in the Moon by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1918).
Fully illustrated with all verses reprinted from In the Fairy Ring.
Blackie’s Story Time Book. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1918).
Two coloured plates by Florence.
Note: Not to be confused with an undated volume published by Blackie and Son in 1916 with the same title and cover but no content by Florence.
My Short Story Book. Blackies. nd. One full-page coloured illustration by Florence captioned “A Moonlight Party”.
Godmother’s Garden by Netta Syrett. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1918).
With frontispiece and other coloured plates by Florence.
Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson, Dublin: The Phoenix Publishing Company Limited, nd (1918).
Illustrations by Florence taken from the 1918 edition by the Talbot Press, Dublin (T. Unwin, London).
Blackie’s Little Ones Book, Glasgow: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1919).
Frontispiece and other illustrations by Florence to assorted authors’ story and verse.
Blackie’s Children’s Diary for 1921.
Verse and pictures by Florence Harrison. London: Blackie & Son Limited, nd (26 August 1920).
Blackie’s Little Ones’ Annual, Glasgow: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1920).
With textual illustration by Florence.
A Child’s Posy: Verses from New Year Time till Christmas Comes. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1922)
This included various verses by Florence, and her illustrations, also added to other authors’ work. Four of the verses had been previously printed in Blackie’s Children’s Annuals.
Fairy Friends. London: Blackie & Son Limited, nd (1922)
With numerous illustrations from Florence.
Nature’s Year by Margaret Cameron, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1922).
With one full-coloured illustration by Florence.
The Big Book for Girls, OUP, London: nd (1922).
Includes one verse by Florence.
Mrs Strang’s Annual for Children, London: OUP, nd (1922).
With numerous illustrations to story and verse by Florence.
This was the first of a number of future commissions for these particular annuals, in what appears to have been a very productive year in Florence Harrison’s professional life. Her work was also reproduced in the following annuals:
1923: With verse and line illustration.
1924: Verse & various illustrations by Florence, including a double-page captioned “The ship of dreams”.
1925: With a full-page coloured frontispiece, a headpiece & tailpiece, and a double-page coloured illustration captioned “The Winding Way”.
1926: With frontispiece and story as well as other coloured illustrations and a verse, all by Florence.
Sasha the Serf. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1922)
Florence executed the front cover illustration for these “stories of Russian life”.
Poems & Pictures for Little People. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1922).
Three verses by Florence, but only one with head & tailpiece included.
Winter Fun, Glasgow and London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1922).
Two full-page coloured illustrations by Florence.
Blackie’s Girls’ Annual, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1922).
One verse by Florence with full-page colour illustration.
From 1922 she began contributing both illustrated story and verse to Blackie’s Girls’ Annual on a regular basis until 1931.
Her work was featured in the following annuals:
1924: With coloured frontispiece and corresponding verse by Florence.
1925: A full-page coloured frontispiece and corresponding decorated verse, entitled “Autumn”.
1926: Includes illustrated verse by Florence.
1927: With a story and full-page coloured illustration by Florence.
1928: With three verses and one full-page coloured illustration captioned “The Goose Girl” by Florence.
1930: With verse and story, the latter with text illustration in line, by Florence.
1931: With story and verses by Florence with head &/or tailpieces in line.
The Daffodil Story Book. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1923).
With an illustrated story by Florence.
Goblin Market and other poems by Christina Rossetti, London: Blackie and Son Limited. One of the “Beautiful Poems” series, nd (1923).
Fully illustrated by Florence.
Shorter Poems by Christina Rossetti, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1923).
One of the “Beautiful Poems” series.
Fully illustrated by Florence.
Taken from Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910.
Tennyson’s Dream of Fair Women and other poems, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1923). One of the “Beautiful Poems” series.
Fully illustrated by Florence.
Taken from Guinevere and Other Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1912.
Tennyson’s Guinevere and other poems. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1923).
One of the “Beautiful Poems” series.
Fully illustrated by Florence.
Taken from Guinevere and Other Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1912.
Fairy Tales for the Schoolroom. London: The Gresham Publishing Company Limited (a subsidiary company of Blackie & Son Limited), nd (1923).
Containing many illustrations by Florence for several authors’ stories and verse.
Mrs Strang’s Annual for Girls. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1923.
With illustrations for various authors’ work.
Florence Harrison’s work was also included in the following annuals:
1924: With one headpiece by Florence.
1925: With a full-page coloured frontispiece and various decorations by Florence.
1926: One illustration & headpiece by Florence.
The Summer Sunshine Book. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1923).
With two text illustrations by Florence.
Robin Redbreast Story Book. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1923).
This volume amalgamates the contents of The Sweetbriar Story Book and aforementioned The Daffodil Story Book.
Pictured Rhymes for Little Readers by Grace M. Tuffley. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1924).
With a full-page colour illustration for “The Magic Road” from Elfin Song, and a further illustrated verse by Florence.
My Garden Book. London, Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1924).
Full-page coloured frontispiece by Florence.
The Hideaway Four, The Polly-Wolly Books. OUP, nd (1924).
With illustrated verse by Florence on inside front cover.
(This was reissued in 1942.)
The Big Book of Pictures and Stories. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1926).
Several coloured illustrations and page-decorations by Florence.
My Great Big Picture Book, OUP, nd (1926).
With two double-page coloured illustrations by Florence.
My Very Own Book. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1926).
Includes one full-page coloured illustration by Florence.
The Tiny Folks’ Annual. OUP, nd (1926).
With verse, head & tailpieces and full-page coloured illustration by Florence, and further decoration and another double-page illustration elsewhere.
Cosy Corner Tales. nd OUP.
With story and line drawings plus coloured frontispiece captioned “The Brownie gets his cream” by Florence.
Children’s Verses of Town and Country by Hamish Hendry. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1926).
With one coloured plate by Florence. Reprinted from Elfin Song, 1912.
The Fairy Kites by Ethel K Crawford. London: Blackie and Son Limited, 1927.
With coloured frontispiece and six full-page illustrations in line by Florence.
The Road to Somewhere by Enid Dinnis. London: Sands & Company, 1927.
Full-page frontispiece in line.
Work and Play Tales. OUP, nd (1927).
Full-page coloured frontispiece and related story by Florence.
Illustration reprinted from Mrs Strang’s Annual for Children, 1925.
Merry Hours. OUP edited by Mrs Herbert Strang.
One double-page coloured illustration by Florence, captioned “A Rainy Day”.
The Oxford Annual for Children. OUP.
One story with headpiece in line, and full-page coloured frontispiece captioned “The Brownie gets his cream”, by Florence.
The Great Book for Children. OUP.
With full-page coloured frontispiece captioned “Jill and the Miller”, plus one story with head & tailpieces and text illustration, all by Florence.
The Big Picture Book. Edited by Mrs Herbert Strang. London: Humphrey Milford, OUP, 1929.
With one double-page & one full-page coloured illustration by Florence.
The Great Book for Girls. OUP, nd (1929).
Full-page coloured frontispiece by Florence, with head and tailpieces and text illustration to a story by MIK Carruthers.
The picture and story reprinted from Mrs Strang’s Annual for Girls, 1925.
Tales for you and me. OUP, nd (1929).
Full-page coloured frontispiece by Florence, and a story with head and tailpieces.
Bed Time Stories. OUP, nd (1929).
With decorated verse by Florence.
Tuck-me up Tales. OUP, nd (1929).
Full-page coloured illustration and decorated verse by Florence.
Our Darling’s Book to Paint. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, nd (1930).
Six full-page lithographed coloured illustrations with the same in uncoloured versions facing them.
The Oxford Annual for Children. London: Humphrey Milford, OUP, 1930.
With one double-page and one full-page coloured illustration by Florence.
The Great Book for Children. London: OUP, 1930.
Includes one story by Florence with head & tailpieces and one full page illustration in line.
Little Tales to Read and Tell. London: The Gresham Publishing Co. Ltd., nd (1930).
With a full-page coloured frontispiece by Florence, and a further half-page in line for a story by Beatrice R. Jackson.
Little Tales for Boys and Girls, London: The Gresham Publishing Co. Ltd., 1931.
With one full-page coloured illustration by Florence.
The Girls’ Budget. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1931).
Includes a story with one text illustration in line, and a verse by Florence.
The Big Budget for Children. London: Blackie and Son Limited.
Several text illustrations in line for stories by other writers.
By Fancy’s Footpath by EM Dinnis. London: Sands and Company. 1932.
Full illustration in various forms by Florence.
The Oxford Annual for Children. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1932.
With one story, two poems and a selection of illustrations all by Florence.
Mopsa the Fairy by Jean Ingelow, retold by Dorothy King. London: Blackie and Son Limited, 1932.
Florence contributed a full-page coloured frontispiece and three full-page coloured illustrations to the retelling of this children’s tale by the then well-known nineteenth-century English poet, who is another almost forgotten name today. (The original had also been republished by Harper & Brothers of New York, in 1927, with black & white illustrations by Dorothy Pulis Lathrop. Mopsa the Fairy is listed in some biographies as Florence Harrison’s last published work.)
For All of Us. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1932).
With an illustrated verse and a coloured frontispiece by Florence.
My Lovely Pictures. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1933).
Florence’s full-page coloured illustration “Fairy Pedlars” was included with the work of several other artists of the period.
The Girls’ Budget. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1933).
With one verse and a story with headpiece and half-page illustration by Florence.
The Great Book for Girls. Humphrey Milford. OUP, nd (1935).
Includes a story with headpiece, and a further vignette in line by Florence.
The Golden Story Book for Girls. London: Humphrey Milford, OUP, 1935.
With one verse and headpiece by Florence.
The Big Picture Book. Edited by Mrs Herbert Strang. London: Humphrey Milford, OUP, 1935.
With one double and one full-page coloured illustration, and one verse by Florence.
Two in a tub and other stories by Louie Jesse. One of Blackie’s Easy to Read Books.
This one stylistically circa 1935, with front cover by Gordon Robinson. Contains illustrations by Florence to stories Pixy Pix and Goblin Land.
The Romance of Reading, first series, edited by RK and MIR Polkinghorn. Book 1: Merry Moments. London: OUP, 1936.
With a variety of illustrations by Florence.
The Romance of Reading, first series, edited by RK and MIR Polkinghorn. Book 2: Happy Hours. London: OUP, 1936.
With a full-page coloured frontispiece by Florence, and further line illustrations for two of the stories.
The Romance of Reading, first series, edited by RK and MIR Polkinghorn. Book 3: Pleasant Paths. London: OUP, 1936.
With several illustrations in line for one story, and a full-page colour plate by Florence for another.
The Romance of Reading, first series, edited by RK and MIR Polkinghorn. Book 4, Cosy Company. London: OUP, 1936.
With a full-page coloured frontispiece and further headpiece by Florence.
The Big Book for Children, Humphrey Milford. OUP, nd .
With decorated verse by Florence, and one full-page coloured illustration.
The Streamline Readers, First Series, Book Three; edited by Larcombe and Freeman. London: OUP, nd .
With illustrations by Florence to a story by Theodore Horton.
The Curtain Rises and Other Stories by E. M. Dinnis. London: Burns, Oates & Company, 1937.
Florence Harrison had first illustrated work by Enid Dinnis in 1927. There now commenced a period of several years (1937-1943) where she provided a total of fifteen illustrations for a series of articles and stories written by Dinnis for The Sign magazine, the last two of which Florence completed for publication with Dinnis’ final texts, after the writer’s death.
A Stirring Book for Girls, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1937), which included a full-page colour plate by Florence.
A Bunch of Girls’ Stories, London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1937), to which Florence contributed a story with one text illustration in line.
These were reprinted from Blackie’s Girls’ Annual, 1930.
(The back cover contained an illustration by one AE Bestall, who in 1935 had begun work on what would become his regular portrayal of the ageless Rupert Bear.)
The Three Silver Pennies by Dorothy King. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1942). One of Blackie’s Large-Type Supplementary Infant Readers.
With a frontispiece, thirteen text illustrations and a tailpiece in line by Florence.
Reprinted with additions 1952.
Four Little Farmers. Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, nd (1945). A “Polly-Wolly Book”.
With one full-page illustration, title-piece and tailpiece by Florence.
The Bumper Book for Girls. London: The Children’s Press, nd (1951).
Includes a decorated verse by Florence.
Just what I like. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1951).
Two text illustrations in line by Florence.
(Possibly a re-issue in part of a 1932 edition.)
The Magic Duck and other stories by Dorothy King. London: Blackie and Son Limited, nd (1955).
With a pictorial inlay on the cover, a frontispiece and various text illustrations in line, this was the last known publication to include work by Florence, fittingly produced by Blackie & Son in the year of her death.
* The list is based on and corresponds with the details provided by Mary Jacobs in the IBIS magazine/newsletter article from ‘Studies in Illustration’, number 46, Winter 2010.
1. Anna Massey Lea Merritt, “A Letter to Artists; Especially Women Artists.”
2. Excerpt from William Morris’s (1834-1896) Frank’s Sealed Letter, which appeared in the April 1856 edition of the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, a publication running from January to December 1856. The magazine was produced by a group of undergraduates calling themselves ‘The Brotherhood’, and led by Morris himself, Edward Burne-Jones and William Fulford.
4. Excerpt from short biographical note in “The Last Romantics, The Romantic Tradition in British Art: Burne-Jones to Stanley Spencer”. Edited by John Christian & published by Lund Humphries, London, in association with Barbican Art Gallery. (1989). Works in the exhibition appear to have included several illustrations by Florence Harrison for Christina Rossetti’s Poems, (1910), William Morris’ Early Poems (1914), and also Tennyson’s Guinevere and other Poems (1912), all published by Blackie & Son Ltd (London & Glasgow) from the nineteenth-century original editions.
5. Fuller detail of Mary Jacob’s most interesting research is available at the web site she has dedicated to Florence Susan Harrison’s life and work.
This newsletter could not have been written without the help of many people.
Indeed, little or nothing at all would have been written without the incredible dedication and tenacity of Mary Rosalind Jacobs, to whom we owe all of the facts about Florence’s life, who has patiently sifted certainty from error, and generously allowed me to make use of her hard work. Thanks as well to her husband Alan for his help supplying images.
Special thanks to Ann Carling, for her determination in discovering illustrations and clues to Florence Harrison’s life, and for her inspired thoughts about the rest.
Thanks to the Geoffrey Beare, at The Imaginative Book Illustration Society, for permission to use information from Mary Jacobs’ article on Florence Harrison (Studies in Illustration, No 46, Winter 2010).
Thanks to Ruth Prickett, editor of Illustration Magazine, for permission to use information from Mary Jacob’s article on Florence Harrison (Issue 28, Summer 2011)
Thanks to Catherine Andrews, at Chris Beetles Art Gallery, for allowing us to show originals of Florence Harrison’s line work.
Thanks to Alan Lupack at The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester for providing assorted images from Guinevere and Other Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Thanks to Sue Walker at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading, for permission to use the illustrations from The Three Silver Pennies.
Thanks to Pat Garrett, at the Children’s Books History Society for the kind help and advice.