Friday, July 6, 2018

Evelyn Copelman in the Tiger Den!

There's nothing better to motivate one to get back to blogging than a new treasure to share! And this time it's a painting by an Oz artist I never had much thought of acquiring, Evelyn Copelman, the second major illustrator of The Wizard of Oz.

Watercolor by Evelyn Copelman.

Alas, the painting isn't from Wizard, but a watercolor of a country street scene. The image is a bit larger than 8" x 11", signed at the bottom right in pencil.

For those of you not acquainted, Evelyn Copelamn was the first illustrator to reillustrate a full-length edition of The Wizard of Oz after W. W. Denslow. After World War II, Wizard publisher Bobbs Merrill wanted a new edition of Wizard. The MGM film had made the book more popular than ever,  and the original Denslow illustrations were difficult to make attractive. The first edition of Wizard is stunning, but by 1903 Denslow's art was already suffering from cheap and simplified printing. By the 1920s and '30s the book was decidedly unattractive.

In 1944, Bobbs Merrill decided on a major overhaul and hired Evelyn Copelman to reillustrate the book. It was her first book illustration job. In the printed book the publisher slyly suggests the drawings are based on those of Denslow, but they are clearly much more inspired by the MGM film.

Copelman's line drawings (actually scratchboard work) in the early printings are sometimes a bit stiff and often overworked. Her paintings are much better. A few years after this new edition of Wizard was released, Copelman went back and redrew almost every image and added several new color plates, creating a much more handsome volume.

In 1947, Bobbs Merrill asked Copelman to reillustrate Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo. She's become a much more gifted illustrator by this point, too, though her style is at odds with Baum's text. (You can read my analysis here).

However, one can see more stylistic parallels between my newly acquired painting and her Mo watercolors than one can find when examining her Wizard paintings - such as in the Mo frontispiece below.

Frontispiece of THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO by Evelyn Copelman.

Note how much looser her style has become in the watercolor sky above, and the similarity in technique of the forested hills at the left in the distance.

But even more similarities can be seen with my painting and the most important work of her career - illustrating the Sally, Dick, and Jane school readers!

Illustration from WE COME AND GO (1946-'47) by Evelyn Copelman as "Eleanor Campbell."

Looking at the lovely watercolored grass, the trees across the road, one can imagine Sally, Dick, and Jane walking down the country street scene in my painting. Evelyn Copelman did all of her school reader work under the pseudonym Eleanor Campbell.

Well, that's it for today in the Tiger Den. "See David Blog. Blog, David, blog!"


Micki said...

Doggone it, I thought Evelyn Copelman was safely on my list of "no need to collect" but you've moved her onto my want list. Her work is very attractive taken as a whole. I thought I'd never need to buy another Wizard. Now I need both a drawn and a redrawn version by Copelman.

Sam said...

I have the Copelman illustrated "Wizard" and I know one of the images is different (specifically the one with the Good Witch and her slate - differences include her outfit, the tree and Dorothy's presence).

But if I were interested in acquiring the revised version, how would I know to find the right one?

Jim Meadows said...

Reading that Evelyn Copelman (as Eleanor Campbell) illustrated the Dick, Jane and Sally readers (that's the name sequence I remember) rang a bell with me. I remember those books well from my childhood in the 1960s. I was reading the "New" series of the books, which probably came from the 1950s, and then an even newer series for my later grades from the same publisher, which abandoned the Dick and Jane family altogether. Wikipedia says Copelman/Campbell was only one of the illustrators in the 1940s, and that others illustrated the later books. But the style, with its depiction of a sunny, suburban, dare I say kind of Ozzy childhood, remained consistent.