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

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Final Denslow

W. W. Denslow experienced many highs and lows during his life and career. High points certainly included his collaborations with L. Frank Baum, and the huge success of The Wizard of Oz on stage.
Profits from the show allowed Denslow to lease, then purchase, his own island in Bermuda, where he worked on other projects. His 1904 book The Pearl and the Pumpkin uses the ocean around the islands in its plot; Denslow even slipped in a drawing of his own island. 

But health problems and alcohol issues plagued the artist, and by 1910 the island had been sold. Denslow was primarily illustrating advertising booklets for various companies, a fall back to something he did earlier in his career. But in 1915 a new opportunity beckoned - Denslow designed a cover for Life, the popular humor magazine, which was accepted and due to be published on their July 15th, 1915 issue. Delighted to have landed this prestigious job, Denslow used the profits from the sale of the drawing for a spree, ending in the hospital where he died of pneumonia on March 29th, before the magazine was even published.

The cover illustration is a colorful and delightful drawing, showing the artist hadn’t lost his ability to create fanciful images. It brings to mind the work of John Held Jr., the artist whose drawings would come to typify the 1920s, and who was just becoming recognized in his own career. 

In Denslow’s drawing a fashionably dressed woman laughs at a carved Egyptian image showing the costume of an earlier day, declaring it “How perfectly absurd!” But when looked at with a closer eye, it’s clear that the 1915 fashion is not much different than that from antiquity!