It’s December

Edith Holden The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady 1906

It’s December and the full onslaught of the cultural waterboarding of commercial Christmas is about to roll out.

Before it takes its full toll, here are a few vintage seasonal illustrations.

First – to the right – Edith Holden from 1906. She has a full complement of British winter birds – blackbird, robin, hedge-sparrows and a blue tit together with the Ivy and holly.

It’s from Holden’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady that recorded in words and images the flora and fauna of the British countryside through the seasons. It was rediscovered and reproduced in 1977. It’s been a staple ever since.

Edward Bawden December (from Good Food by Ambrose Heath), 1932

The second is by Edward Bawden. It’s an illustration for Ambrose Heath’s Good Food and it has the full Christmas culinary load complete with turkey, pudding, pork pie, cake, a jelly, crackers, a carafe of wine and a flying angel,

Heath (1891- 1969) was a very successful food and drink writer of more than one hundred books and whose work appeared in the Times and the Guardian,  

Good Food – first published in 1932 – has answers for all those troubling questions such as: How should you prepare a rabbit casserole? What time of year is best for oysters? And how do you bake the perfect chocolate souffe?

It has guidance for what to cook in each season and takes the reader from baked haddock in January to chestnut cake in December.

Bawden also illustrated the Christmas catalogues for Fortnum and Mason. Here are three from the 1950’s.

Edward Bawden 1955

Edward Bawden 1957

Edward Bawden 1958

Bawden’s friend Eric Ravilious created this wood engraving for the 1933 Kynoch Press Book, a diary published annually and each year decorated by a different artist. It’s a simple beauty and has been much reproduced on Christmas cards.

Eric Ravilious 1933

You wouldn’t know the world was at war from this illustration from 1917. This is Gustave Baumann’s woodblock for the Packard Calendar. It’s all a long way from the Packard ambulances and trucks with the AEF in France. 

There’s also a sailboat in this by Abel Grimmer from the early 17th century. It’s the Allegory of the month of December, dated 1609 and is one of a series of oil paintings on wood representing the months of the year. It follows the tradition of the medieval calendar tradition in which seasons and months connected the activities of the peasants with parables from the Bible.

Also from the Netherlands here are two from Leo Visser:

 Leo Visser, 1903

Leo Visser, 1926


















By contrast – here’s a page from a calendar published by L. Prang & Co. (Boston, Mass.) It’s a chromolithograph by F. Schuyler Mathews (American; 1854–1938). It’s December 1896 and the poor woman looks like she’s bracing herself against sexual assault under the mistletoe. 

In contrast to Visser’s rather grim-looking bird above, here’s A Tidings of Magpies from 1949. It’s from a series of bird illustrations that Charles Tunnicliffe did for Boots, the chemist.

 Charles Tunnicliffe for Boots, the Chemist. This one is from 1949.

An activist north west Labor calendar from 1936 with some bits of Labor history.

And finally, Tintin from December 1944

Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock in the snow.

Tintin was created by the Belgian cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi, pen name Hergé. The Adventures on Tintin featured  boy reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy . Early episodes –  Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin in the Congo, and Tintin in America – were designed as conservative propaganda for children.

After the German occupation of Belgium in 1940, Hergé continued his series in Le Soir, a popular newspaper controlled by the Nazis.

After the Allied liberation of Belgium in 1944, Le Soir was shut down and its staff – including Hergé – accused of collaboration. After an investigation no charges were brought against him although accusations of having been a traitor and collaborator dogged him for years. More.

The featured image if from The Ypres Salient at Night by Paul Nash 1918.

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