Friday, November 19, 2010

Dugald Stewart Walker

Dugald Stewart Walker (1883-1937) was an art nouveau era illustrator whose work was largely published in children's books.  The man's style was very singular and when left to his own devices, a bit close to obsessive-compulsive.  As artists like to say, he could "make a lot of marks on the page."  Those drawings were fun to look at, albeit a bit overwhelming to the eye.  I mean, holy crap:

That's a lot to look at.  I had to size it up just so you could look at it adequately and it's still not big enough.  But when someone (like an editor or an author) got him to chill out and not be so ornate, he could also do stunning work.  Such as: 

I think some of his nicest works are for Padraic Colum's books, such as this work for The Boy Who Knew What Birds Said:

Dugie (as I like to call him) was bit of a strange dude.  Here's something he wrote for the introduction to a book that he illustrated:

I have never been anywhere except Richmond, Virginia, and New York, because I have always been told that only grown-up people were allowed to travel. But the good East Wind and the kindly Moon have taken me on rapturous journeys high above the world to get an enchanted view of things. In this book I have put some of my discoveries, but if you are looking here for real likeness of the things that any one could see if he were grown up, you had better close the covers now. You cannot expect me to draw an exact picture of the North Pole or of a Chinese lady's feet or of a sea-cucumber. But if you are interested in what the East Wind or the Father Stork or the Moon told me, then look with my eyes and you will not mind very much if the courtiers in the ogre's court, or the dock leaves in the Garden of Paradise, are not just as a grown-up person thinks they should be. After all is said and done, what the young ones say about it is the all-important matter.

He must have been a rather eccentric Southern gentleman.  And it's probably not cool to speculate about the sexual orientation of the dead, but people do it about Abe Lincoln all the time, so I guess I'll say something about Dugald Stewart Walker.  And I was rather amazed to see that a vintage illustration expert had the same notion as I do:   a lot of his illustrations seem to say "gay" to me.  He liked to work naked male butts into the act whenever he could:

I would venture that Hermes should go to the gym and do some lunges and squats to lift his butt.

To say I'm gay-friendly is an understatement, so this observation is hardly pejorative.  In fact, I'm sure the life of a gay gentleman in Virginia in the early 20th century was less than easy to live, and it leads me to understand how the flights of fancy that he described above may have come about.  When the only choice was to be in the closet and you're a creative, imaginative soul, you might stay at home and imagine what the East Wind is saying to you.  It's quite poignant when you consider it in that manner.  But who knows if that is true -- it's some of my historical fiction.

In the next day or two I'll put up some photos of my prized Dugald Stewart Walker possessions that are very special to me and talk about him a bit more.

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