Sunday, March 21, 2010

Women in Folklore Month: Eleanor Vere Gordon Boyle

Eleanor Vere Gordon Boyle is our illustrator for today's Women in Folklore Month post.

From Wikipedia:

Eleanor Vere Gordon Boyle (1 May 1825 – 29 July 1916) was an English artist and author of the Victorian era. She has been considered the most important female illustrator of the 1860s.

She was born in Scotland, the youngest daughter of Alexander Gordon of Ellon Castle, Aberdeenshire. In 1845 she married Richard Cavendish Boyle (1812–86), a younger son of the 8th Earl of Cork; R. C. Boyle served as the rector of Marston Bigot in Somerset (1836–75) and later as Queen Victoria's chaplain. Because of her social position, she rarely exhibited or sold her artwork — actions that would have been déclassé in the standards of her time and place. She did allow a rare exhibition of her art at Leighton House c. 1902. Consistently, in both her visual art and her books, she employed her initials, E. V. B., to mask her identity.

Boyle applied her skill as a watercolorist to illustrate children's books. In 1852, a small volume titled Child's Play matched Boyle pictures with traditional nursery rhymes like "Little Boy Blue." She illustrated a wide range of similar books, including Tennyson's The May Queen (1860) — she was a friend of the poet — and the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1875) — she depicted the Beast as a sabre-toothed panther. In 1868 she illustrated Sarah Austen's translation of Friedrich Wilhelm Carové's The Story Without an End; and in 1872 she became one of the first British artists to illustrate the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, and set a new standard of quality for Andersen illustration.

I've always appreciated Boyle's rather unique take on the Beast in her Beauty and the Beast illustrations. He is rather ugly and much less of a teddy bear or lion in disguise as later illustrators have portrayed him.

Her Thumbelina paintings are some of my favorites of her work although I am quite attached to the Beauty and the Beast images, too.

Her work is just so very Victorian, really. Rather fun to peruse and see how much has changed in 150 years of illustration.


  1. I always though her Beast looked like a walrus-toothed sea lion, actually. It's the paws, I guess.

    But thanks for sharing her art!

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