Illustration History

#TBT | Mary Blair Adds a “Golden” Touch to Children’s Books of the 1950s


Mary blair concept art disney

You know how there’s the hash­tag #TBT? (If you’re not in the know, it means Throw Back Thurs­day.) Any­ways, it’s basi­cal­ly an excuse to post vin­tage pho­tos and oth­er things from long ago. I’ve always enjoyed it, but nev­er par­tic­i­pat­ed… until now. I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at illus­tra­tions from the past cen­tu­ry, with a spe­cif­ic focus on women illus­tra­tors. First up is my all-time favorite, Mary Blair.

If you’ve nev­er heard Mary Blair’s name, you’ve prob­a­bly seen her work before. She’s best known for pro­duc­ing con­cept art for Dis­ney dur­ing the mid­dle of the last cen­tu­ry. Alice in Won­der­land, Peter Pan (above), and Cin­derel­la are a few of her cred­its. In addi­tion, she also cre­at­ed char­ac­ter designs for Disneyland’s It’s a Small World, as well as the fies­ta scene in El Rio del Tiem­po in the Mex­i­co pavil­ion in Epcot’s World Show­case.

I’ve nev­er been to Dis­ney­land, so I’ve nev­er seen It’s a Small World. But, I am famil­iar with her illus­trat­ed children’s books like I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss. In fact, it’s on my book­shelf! It’s these illus­tra­tions that made the most impact on me dur­ing my years as an under­grad in art school. I love the char­ac­ter design, busy scenes, and shape design—they’re the epit­o­me of this mid cen­tu­ry style.

It’s an aes­thet­ic that con­tin­ues to endure today. Illus­tra­tor Ellen Sur­rey is a fan­tas­tic exam­ple of some­one who has trans­lat­ed Mary Blair’s influ­ence into their con­tem­po­rary style.

mary blair disney it's a small world

mary blair illustration vintage mermaids

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book

mary blair vintage illustration golden book