Christmas came and brought a couple of nice additions for my bookshelf collection.
The first was Louisa The Life of Louisa May Alcott by Yona Zeldis McDonough. This is a juvenile biography with lively and colorful illustrations by Bethanne Anderson. The book presented a good overview of Louisa’s life; I was pleased to see that the author even dealt a bit with Louisa’s inner spiritual life by quoting her comments regarding her encounter with God in nature.
Naturally Bronson was glossed over which is appropriate for a children’s book.
The author presented the financial hardships of the family,
setting up the motivation for Louisa’s frantic work pace throughout her life.
There were a couple of facts that I found questionable, especially in the cause of her death (the author cited the chill Louisa got from forgetting to put on her cape and succumbing to pneumonia when several experts believe she died of a stroke).
The appearance of the book is very pleasing; it was, in fact, the illustrations that made me desire it and I’m glad my husband gave it to me for Christmas.
More on those Norman Rockwell illustrations
The other addition was a find I made while shopping for my brother at the local antique shop. Norman Rockwell Illustrator by Arthur Guptill caught my eye and as hoped for, featured his pictures from the Louisa May Alcott series, “Most Beloved American Writer” by Katharine Anthony featured in the Woman’s Home Companion in 1938 (which I just ordered from eBay, I’ll report on it when it arrives).
In the meantime I can share some pictures from the book along with some comments by Rockwell which I found most interesting.
Regarding the Louisa May Alcott series, Rockwell says,
“As preparation for these Louisa May Alcott illustrations, which I was commissioned to do for the Woman’s Home Companion, I went to the Alcott home at Concord, Massachusetts, accompanied by Henry Quinan, then art director of that publication … We spent several days at Concord, making sketches and absorbing the atmosphere of the house – the whole house is as it was – even the attic, which still remains just as Louisa May Alcott left it. A few days spent on the spot like that is worth hundreds of photographs, because you get the real feel of the thing, We say Louisa’s old swing, her lamp, We knew how she went out of her room – how she went around the place … I had to read “Little Women” in order to illustrate it, so, as I was going on a hunting trip, I took it with me. Every evening I would sit reading “Little Women” while my three companions – great husky, broad-shouldered guys – were talking about killing moose. They must have wondered what was wrong with me. Then I came home and got busy with my pictures for “Little Women.” N.R. (page 76, Norman Rockwell Illustrator by Arthur Guptill).
Rockwell made very interesting comments regarding the famous illustration in oil of Louisa meeting with her publisher:
One of the real handicaps to American illustration is the fact that every girl, in every illustration in every magazine, must be made beautiful – no matter what the story. Most magazine editors seem to believe, and perhaps rightly, that the American women readers will just not stand for anything but glamorous females … In the illustration opposite, which depicts Louisa May Alcott as a young woman interviewing her first publisher (supposedly a racy, rather vulgar type of person), I at first tried to paint her as she appeared in her own photographs. Though she had character, they showed her as anything but beautiful. But the editor made me “pretty her up” a lot; I felt that this weakened the picture … The costumes were made for me in Concord. N.R. (Ibid, page 80).
Here’s a slide show of the complete set of pictures from Norman Rockwell Illustrator:
Santa was good to me; hope he was good to you too! I wrote some reflections on a wonderful Christmas day on my other blog if you wish to read it.
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