Jacqueline Davies on Invisible Women Illustrators

The names we don’t mention matter as much as the names we do. Many of us know the feeling. A book conversation, and the names of the illustrious are among them. And after a while you start thinking, wait, something is wrong here. There are a lot of missing names.

Unknown.jpegIt’s especially ironic when the missing citations are of work that depends on its visibility, on being recognized on the page. It’s why the realization of writer Jacqueline Davies (The Boy Who Drew Birds, Nothing But Trouble) is worth paying attention to. She was at a lecture about illustration during which she had an experience, she says, similar to being infested by bed-bugs. An ickiness at an unpleasant realization:

About the presenter, she says:

He went to an elite art school. He studied. He learned. He graduated with distinction. He was consciously taught by the best of the best. And what he came away with after four years and $200,000—the knowledge he absorbed down to his cellular level—is that male artists matter and female artists hardly exist at all.

It’s an old story, right? Think about all the women missing from history as it’s typically been taught, their talents, when acknowledged, seen as inferior to that of the men they worked with.

Think of the missing women artists at MOMA.

The women whom science forgot.

But that was then, we might say. This is now. Where’s Wanda Gag on that list, and Beatrix Potter? Marla Frazee and Melissa Sweet and Suzy Lee?

If you made a list of gifted children’s book illustrators, who would be on it?

 

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