Thursday, June 16, 2016


James Daugherty was born on June 1, 1889. Like many other children's book illustrators, he worked creatively in a variety of styles and genres.
He was one of the first American painters to work with abstract color.
Daugherty sketching in his studio, his son posing for him
Later he began working in more representational styles...

Mural in the Greenwich Public Library
...creating a large body of work in the form of murals and paintings...

...that often explored American history and experience.
It was later in his career when he turned to children's books, a field in which he illustrated for other authors... well as writing and illustrating his own distinguished, award-winning books.

His work is always vigorous, bursting with energy, so alive it seems to leap off the page.
One can feel muscles rippling beneath the surface of even the inanimate objects in his work.
Illustration from "Daniel Boone"

I had not realized until researching for this post that  Daugherty's work was also at times quite controversial (and perhaps still is)---for his uncompromising depictions of violent factual events, his sometimes scantily clad people, his uncomfortably accurate portrayals of this country's history. We are all too familiar with these same issues today, of course.
Daughtery's representational work remains, for me, some of the most beauiful art ever created. His images remind me of Michelangelo's art; they have the same heroic feel and look, the same celebration of the grandeur of creation.
But Daugherty's images have, in addition, their own unique qualities: a barely controlled energy, a life force that animates every creature, object, and item portrayed... as well as an acceptance of humanity in all its contradictory imperfection and nobility.


  1. Thanks for this- Andy and the Lion is one of the few very old books that stays when I periodically weed the two school libraries I maintain. I had never seen his other work before this- really wonderful.

    1. I'm so glad to know that you've learned more about this great artist from my post. Thank you!

  2. Excellent post. I always learn so much from your artist profiles. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for sharing about this wonderful artist, Wendy! Andy and the Lion has long been a favorite of mine! Very energetic work, indeed. You do educate us with these artist celebrations!

    1. Another comment about learning from my posts honoring illustrators from the past. Thank you very much! Really confirms my interest in doing these.

    2. I agree about Andy and the Lion--I had a little frisson of memory when that image came up. But I wasn't familiar with the rest of his work. Some of it reminds me of Diego Rivera...What amazing, strong images. Thank you!

    3. Yes...and both of these artists were strong social commentators.