Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

John R. Neill

W. W. Denslow illustrated the first Oz book, but John R. Neill became the official Oz illustrator. Starting with The Marvelous Land of Oz in 1904, he would go on to illustrate 35 Oz books, including 3 he wrote himself, as well as the 6 book Little Wizard series. At the time of his death in 1943, he had a fourth Oz title written, which was finally published in 1995.

Above is a first edition of The Marvelous Land of Oz. Considering the amount of Oz artwork Neill created, very little survives today. I'm aware of some pieces from Marvelous Land, in particular some of the color plate drawings. Artwork also survives from later Oz books, but again, it is a small proportion of what was originally created.

The earliest piece of Neill art that I have is from 1906, and is a bookplate drawing. I have two of these, and know of a third which I believe belongs to the Oz club. They are all signed COPYRIGHT 1906 BY J. R. NEILL, but I don't know what they were created for. I think the fact that each has a copyright notice points toward the idea of them being published to be used as bookplates, rather than being drawn for particular books, since Neill didn't generally put copyright notices on his drawings. In the image I'm showing, the two children could easily be Dorothy and Button Bright. Neill didn't draw Dorothy until the following year, 1907, in Ozma of Oz, and Button Bright doesn't appear until 1909 in Road to Oz. Still, it's fun to think of these two as precursors to the more famous characters.


Jay said...

They also resemble Nip and Tuck, the protagonists of a comic strip that Neill did the artwork for.

Bill Campbell said...

That's true, although Nip & Tuck were later - 1909-1910. Nip & Tuck also very much resemble the Dorothy and Button Bright that Neill was drawing at the time - also Dingleberry the dog is a match for Neill's first Toto. I have some Nip & Tuck pages that I'll be posting at a later date.