Thursday, March 20, 2014

trina schart hyman--self-portrait

1981, Addison Wesley Publishing

Excerpts from Self-Portrait: Trina Schart Hyman


I was born forty-two years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We lived in a rural area about twenty miles north of the city. …

The farm was the oldest of the old places. It was set back from the road, and although you could see it from the corner of our yard, you had to walk the length of two fields and then down a long avenue of giant elms and old fierce boxwood trees before you could get to the house. It was a long, low, rambling stone and stucco farmhouse with at least forty rooms and three chimneys and a slate roof. It had an enormous stone barn, a mossy spring house, a romantic hidden rock garden, several flower gardens, an enormous...vegetable garden, and a lovely pond fed by ancient springs. … The people who owned the farm were the King and Queen to me. …

One of the first drawings I can remember working on was of the Queen with a big basket of eggs on her arm. I didn’t think her overalls were pretty, so I drew her in an elaborate long dress with lots of little egg-shaped polka dots. …

As I grew up, the days of the King and Queen came to an end. They spent less and less time at the farm, and finally the farm and its garden were left to collect dust and weeds and dream away the days.


… I was born terrified of anything and everything that moved or spoke. I was afraid of people, especially. … I was afraid of the stars and the wind. Who knows why?

My mother is a beautiful woman with red hair and the piercing blue gaze of a hawk. … It was she who gave me the courage to draw and a love of books. …Once, when I was three or four and she was reading my favorite story, the words on the page, her spoken words, and the scenes in my head fell together in a blinding flash. I could read!

The story was Little Red Riding Hood, and it was so much a part of me that I actually became Little Red Riding Hood. … My dog, Tippy, was the wolf. Whenever we met, which in a small backyard had to be fairly often, there was an intense confrontation. My father was the woodsman, and I greeted him when he came home each day with relief and joy.


…For nine years my father drove me into the city to the orthodontist every Saturday morning. …Some Saturdays, after the dentist, I got to go to the Philadelphia Art Museum as a reward. 

I should have been afraid of that grand, imposing building, but I wasn’t. I loved it. I loved the vales and glades and corridors full of paintings, and the tapestries and glass and wood and furniture that the artists who had done the paintings must have used or known! …

There’s a little painting by Breughel* in a corner of a hallway. It shows a fat man with red stockings, running, running. His hands are clutching at his hat and his satchel. He is running away from a hillside full of sheep! Why? There is a dark tree to the extreme right of the painting, and a bird perched on the only branch. A yellow sky. I could feel his fear. Why is the man so afraid? But then, if you look closely, there is a wolf in with the sheep, sneaking closer and closer. Oh no! He’s really Little Red Riding Hood! Oh, Brueghel, I love you.

The Unfaithful Shepherd, Breugel* the Elder, c. 1567/69


…I went to art school in Philadelphia.... Suddenly, I was not only allowed to draw all day long, I was expected to! I was surrounded by other artists all day, and we talked, ate, lived and dreamed about art. It was as though I had been living…in a strange country where I could never quite fit in—and now I had come home. …

My best friend, Barbara, was an illustration major, too. Barbara and I went everywhere together; we’d walk all over the city, drawing everything we saw…. And every day for lunch, rain or shine, we went to Rittenhouse Square. We took our sketch books, hamburgers, coffee and a big box of saltines for the crowds of pigeons….


At the end of my third year at the Philadelphia College of Art, Harris Hyman and I decided to get married. … He was moving to Boston, where he’d gotten a job, and then he was going to Sweden to study mathematics. … So I said goodbye to Philadelphia and went to Boston with Harris….


…I went to art school again.

That spring, I got my first real job, illustrating a children’s book called Toffe och den Lilla Bilen (Toffe and the Little Car).  …An editor named Astrid Lindgren…gave me a book to do. Of course, the text was in Swedish, so it took nearly as long for me to translate it as it did to draw the forty-six black-and-white illustrations…I was now a published illustrator!

* Breugel, Breughel--variant spellings for the same artist

Self-Portrait: Trina Schart Hyman is out of print.

Trina Schart Hyman, unknown date

A Gallery of Self-Portraits 
by Trina Schart Hyman:

Self-Portrait with Bert, oil on canvas, 1990

Self-Portrait with Angel on Forehead, ca. late 1990s

Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 2001

Here is a link to another article I posted about Trina Schart Hyman

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HOLiDAY TiDiNGS Poems for Cats selected by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Cat lovers rejoice! There are at least six days in the year that you can celebrate the love of cats. I found listings for International Cat Day on August 8th, and on February 20th. World Cat Day is celebrated in some calendars in the United States on the 29th of October, in Russia on March 1st, and in Poland on February 17th. And if that is not enough celebrating, then there is National Feral Cat Day on (mark your calendars!) October 16th. And my favorite: stand back for Hug Your Cat Day commemorated on June 4th. You have more than one cat? Then it's a big group hug! Come on! Big group hug!

And, of course, there is a great book to help us celebrate the day(s) entitled

1987, Holiday House, New York

New and old poems by Karla Kuskin, John Ciardi, and others describe cats hunting, washing, sleeping, and playing. Tomcats, kittens, "jellicle" cats, cats that turn into princesses--this book is a celebration of all kinds of cats! These poets are also represented: Eve Merriam, Valerie Worth, Eleanor Farjeon, X. J. Kennedy, T. S. Eliot, Jean Cocteau, May Swenson, and more. Some of the poems were especially commissioned for this book.
This title is out of print. 

Here is a poem that will help us celebrate CATS. It is not from the collection mentioned above, but is a favorite of mine from Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs.

The Monk and his Cat
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me, study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art
Neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever
Without tedium and envy.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are,
Alone together, Scholar and cat.

The Monk and his Cat" is the eighth song of Samuel Barber's song cycle Hermit Songs. The cycle was composed in 1953 and published in 1954.

The poem is a translation of a text by an anonymous Irish monk who lived sometime between the 8th and 13th centuries. The English translation is by W. H. Auden.

HOLiDAY TiDiNGS is a continuing series of articles for this blog that focus on poetry and other literature written for or appropriate to  specific holidays.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Erik Blegvad 1923-2014

“There was a rumor that the only reason I 

graduated was because I had been arrested 

by the Gestapo and that the school did not 

want to see somebody who had been

arrested also fail his exams.”

     Erik Blegvad on getting through school

1986, by Pat Diska

Erik Blegvad
Erik Blegvad, a prolific children’s book artist renowned for illustrations whose fine-grained propriety could barely conceal the deep subversive wit at their core, died on Jan. 14 in London. He was 90. 

Erik Blegvad was born in Copenhagen on March 3, 1923. As a youth, planning a career as an airplane mechanic, he apprenticed in a machine shop. He left the shop after the German occupation of Denmark in 1940, when it began doing work for the Nazis. 

Mr. Blegvad, who had always liked to draw, entered the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts. Though he described himself as having been a poor student there, he was allowed to graduate — a function, he later said, of his having spent several days in a Nazi prison for distributing Danish resistance literature.

“There was a rumor that the only reason I graduated was because I had been arrested by the Gestapo and that the school did not want to see somebody who had been arrested also fail his exams,” Mr. Blegvad said in an interview quoted in the reference work Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults.

After Germany’s defeat, Mr. Blegvad served in what is now the Royal Danish Air Force, later assisting the British as a German-to-English translator in occupied Germany. Afterward, working as a commercial illustrator in Paris, he met Lenore Hochman, an American art student there; they were married from 1950 until her death in 2008.

Mr. Blegvad, who moved with his wife to the United States in 1951 and contributed illustrations to American magazines, maintained a home in Wardsboro, Vt., for many years.

        from Erik Blegvad's obituary in The New York Times by Margalit Fox

“This Little Pig-a-Wig and Other Rhymes About Pigs” (1978), which, with text chosen by Lenore Blegvad, was named one of the best illustrated children’s books of the year by The New York Times Book Review.

1953, Blvd. St. Michel, Paris

1957, cover art

Original edition, Macmillan 1961

40th Anniversary Edition

Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls

by Marjorie Winslow, Erik Blegvad (illustrator)

Any doll chef will tell you that no supermarket is as well-stocked as a forest, a sand dune, or your own backyard; and everyone knows that "dolls love mud, when properly prepared."

For forty years, Mud Pies and Other Recipes has been the consummate cookbook for dolls, using only the finest ingredients found outside. All of the perennial doll favorites are here, including Dandelion Souffle, Wood Chip Dip, and, of course, Mud Pies.

This special 40th anniversary hardcover edition includes a Tea Party in the menu section, so that dolls with discriminating palates will be prepared for every social occasion. Erik Blegvad's classically fetching illustrations provide the perfect dressing for Marjorie Winslow's outdoor cookbook for dolls.
          from the book jacket

Fortieth Anniversary Hardcover Edition

Published March 1st 2001 by Walker Childrens

Mud Pies and Other Recipes is so superbly written and illustrated that I would have to include it on my list of favorite children's books of all time.        Leon

1987, Atheneum

Twelve tales

selected, translated and illustrated by

Erik Blegvad


For Erik Blegvad, born and raised in Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen`s stories have a 

special significance; they were part of his childhood. Once, his grandfather even saw the 

great man in the streets of Copenhagen.

1979, Addison-Wesley

     My father, his father and his father's father all had drawing talent and hoped to become artists; none of them did. My mother's devotion to art was absolute, and my own attempts met only with lavish praise and encouragement from her. ...
     Each of my illustrations taught me a little something, but none, I think, more than this Self-Portrait. I've learned how difficult it is to write, but also many other things about myself and my rich and lucky life. ...
    There's a lazy side to me.  I hold it responsible for placing a sunrise north of Copenhagen, or a sixth finger on a decorated envelope, and for occasionally making some stiff and graceless drawings.  
     But when my lucky side is working, I find myself concentrated at the tip of my pen.  Which to my delight, proceeds to create people, objects, and worlds I never knew existed.
     To have learned to observe at such an early age, to have stumbled into such a varied life, to have spent it with such extraordinary people--there's luck for you.     Erik Blegvad

recent photograph, unknown date