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.