Even though I’m a great fan of modern – sometimes even minimalist – illustrations, it often happens in December that I get absorbed in looking at the old classics. There are many wonderful illustrators who have managed to capture the wintry atmosphere, but for me – unsurprisingly – it’s the British, who are closest to my heart.
To say a shamefully over-used cliché: I love curling up under a blanket with a cup of tea, pretend that I’m 4 years old, and flip through these old children’s stories, only to look at the beautiful pictures. So these are the illustrators who help me get into the Christmas mood even in the extreme rush of December.
The creator of Brambley Hedge was born in 1951 and even though she is less known in Hungary, the series instantly made her a classic. The tales tell the life of a mouse community living in Brambley Hedge. The main Character is Wilfred, the mouse boy, and Primrose, the mouse girl, who get into all sorts of adventures, have picnics, climb mountains and even get lost sometimes. In Hungarian we only got to see the animated TV series based on these stories (which is also charming) but it is worth buying the book in any language just for the sake of the beautiful illustrations painted by Jill.
Raymond found a place in the history of illustration with his amazing tale The Snowman. The book is a treasure not only because of the superb illustrations but also because it tells the story only in pictures, without a single word – an aspect also kept in the 26 minute film made from the book. In the film there are only noises and music, which are enough to tell the touching story of the snowman and his little friend. There were several short films made from Raymond Briggs’ books, Father Christmas, for instance (in which Santa decides to go on holiday instead of delivering presents), which not only have a beautifully illustrated look, but also some excellent British humour.
The woman behind Peter Rabbit is well-known to us all, as Beatrix Potter has become a legend. However, her tale The Tailor of Gloucester is a little less in the public eye, even though it’s a sweet story about a couple of mice, who help the ill tailor finish a piece of beautifully stitched jacket, that has to be ready by Christmas Day. Beatrix paints animals, people and landscape with ink and watercolor in absolutely amazing quality.
The brilliance of these classic illustrators lies in the fact that both professionals and non-professionals find them exquisite work. I found joy in Beatrix Potter’s work from a very early age but I only found The Snowman by Raymond Briggs when I was 25 and was still amazed – not to mention that the video The making of The Snowman has been super-interesting for me – as someone who is interested in illustration.
What are your favourite classics to flip through during the holiday season?
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