Greek Heroes by Pauline Baynes

Baynes Illustrations Come to Chapin Library

Baynes Illustrations Come to Chapin Library

Often hired to illustrate textbooks or cookbooks,
Pauline Baynes applied the same brilliant imagination
she used when drawing Narnia or Middle-earth.

Bayne illustration
From "Good King Wenceslas," illustration by Pauline Baynes

The Chapin Library at Williams College has received, through the College’s Oxford Programme, an important bequest of paintings, drawings, and other materials by the distinguished British illustrator Pauline Baynes.

Baynes, who died in August 2008 at the age of 85, began her career in 1942 with illustrations for the “Perry Colour Books” for children. Before long, she was producing art for major London publishers. Over more than sixty years, she made thousands of drawings, most famously for works by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. “At the peak of her career, publishers lined up to hire Pauline Baynes as an illustrator and designer,” said Wayne Hammond, Assistant Chapin Librarian. “She was known for fidelity to an author’s text, for delicacy of line, and for a superb sense of color.”

Baynes was often hired to illustrate stories with an element of fantasy, such as Andersen’s fairy tales and the Arabian Nights, and books with religious themes, but also history and geography books, nature books, and cookbooks. To all of these, said Hammond, “she applied the same brilliant imagination she used when drawing Narnia or Middle-earth.” Able to work in a wide range of styles, she could evoke a medieval illuminated manuscript as easily as Persian miniatures, Greek vase paintings, or realistic plants and animals. But Baynes was especially known for the historical accuracy she brought to books such as A Dictionary of Chivalry by Grant Uden (1968), which won her the esteemed Kate Greenaway Medal, and A Companion to World Mythology by Richard Barber (1979).

Baynes illustration
Pauline Baynes’ Society of Authors Christmas card illustration

Hammond noted that although Baynes sold or gave away most of her original art for Lewis and Tolkien, hundreds of her illustrations for those and other authors survived in her archive, as well as printed versions in books and magazines, late “visionary” paintings, and unpublished work such as designs for Aesop’s fables. All of these will be organized and catalogued by the Chapin Library over the next few years. Williams has also received some 2,000 volumes comprising Baynes’s working reference library and books illustrated by artists that inspired her, such as Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, and Rex Whistler.

The Chapin Library is one of the leading special collections libraries among American colleges and universities. Opened in 1923, it collects rare books, manuscripts, prints, and other original source materials in support of the liberal arts education offered by Williams College. It is currently located in temporary quarters in the historic Southworth Schoolhouse at 96 School Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. For further details, phone 413-597-2462 or e-mail to [email protected].

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