SPOTLIGHT: April 1, 2023
Eugene Field’s Poems of Childhood, 1904
In addition to amassing an important art collection, museum co-founder Carl Weyerhaeuser also collected rare and art-related books throughout the years, forming a rich library. This example from the Art Complex Museum’s special collection library entitled, Poems of Childhood, 1904, by Eugene Field, is an early volume, possibly a first edition, that features poems and verses by Field and reproductions of painted illustrations that were created by American artist and illustrator, Maxfield Parrish.
Field was best known for his childhood verses such as Little Boy Blue; Wynken, Blynken and Nod; and The Duel (also referred to as The Gingham Dog and Calico Cat). The poems were inspired by Field’s eight children, and many were written in an effort to entertain and comfort them at bedtime.[i] Little Boy Blue, in particular, is one of Field’s most well-known children’s verses and was inspired by the death of one of his young sons.[ii] These poems and others by Field were popular examples used to teach poetry in American schools and many were published in the Journal of Education as well as in the Chicago Morning News, the Youth’s Companion and Ladies’ Home Journal. [iii]
This endearing excerpt from the adventures of Wynken, Blyken and Nod demonstrates the author’s ability to write verse that parents and children could read and enjoy as a bedtime story:
Wynken and Blyken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
Several of the elegant illustrations created by Parrish for Poems of Childhood include his signature color, a luminous blue, that came to be referred to as “Parrish blue” by artists and art connoisseurs. Created using a painstaking glazing technique, the artist integrated the color into many of his works.
The artist’s ability to create scenes that adopted a child’s point of view won him the illustration commission for Field’s book of children’s poems from Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing in 1904.[iv] The book became one of the most known volumes illustrated by Parrish.[v] It was the first book where Parrish’s paintings were reproduced in full color.[vi] The image Parrish created for the illustration of the poem “seeing things” was likely inspired by his own childhood experience while traveling with his father in France. Young Parrish contracted Typhoid and was in bed recovering from a dangerously high fever.[vii] The illustration shows a boy in bed with his toys, with imagined demons lurking overhead. Other illustrations by Parrish in Poems from Childhood include: With Trumpet and Drum; The Sugar Plum Tree; Wynken, Blyken and Nod; The Dinkey Bird; Seein’ Things, and more.
Parrish made a career of illustrating the cover pages of periodicals including Collier’s, Harper’s Weekly, Life, and the Ladies Home Journal. Parrish also illustrated books by other authors, including: Nathaniel Hawthorne (A Wonder Book and Tangled Tales for Boys and Girls, 1910), L. Frank Baum (Mother Goose in Prose, 1897 and the Marvelous Land of Oz, 1900), Kenneth Grahame (The Golden Age, 1895), Louise Saunders (Knave of Hearts, 1925) and Elizabeth Wharton (Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904).
This book was given as a gift by Carl Weyerhaeuser to his nephews, Walter and Charles Rosenberry, and was later added to the Art Complex Museum’s special collection library.
Poems of Childhood, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, NY, 1904
Maxfield Parrish (Illustrator)
Gift of Walter and Charles Rosenberry
[i] Eugene Field Biography, Denver Public Library, https://history.denverlibrary.org/colorado-biographies/eugene-field-1850-1895, accessed March 28, 2023.
[ii] Eugene Field Biography, Denver Public Library.
[iii] Eugene Field: 1850-1895, The Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/eugene-field, accessed March 28, 2023.
[iv] Gilbert, Alma M., Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, 2005. Pg. 12.
[v] Ludwig, Coy, Maxfield Parrish, Watson-Guptill, New York, NY, 1973, Pg. 31.
[vi] Ludwig, Pg. 31.
[vii] Gilbert, Pg. 12.
Cover, Poems of Childhood
by Edward Field, 1904
Illustrated by Maxfield Parris
Maxfield Parrish, Illustration for The Sugar Plum Tree
Maxfield Parrish, Illustration for The Little Peach
Maxfield Parrish, Illustration for Wynken, Blynken and Nob
Maxfield Parrish, Illustration for The Dinkey-Bird
Maxfield Parrish, Illustration for With Trumpet and Drum
Maxfield Parrish, Illustration for Seein’ Things