The Forties – Modernism AND ‘The Famous Five’

The 1940s were dominated by war. Modernism emerged as the leading artistic movement..

Illustrators withdrew from. the highly decorative style of children’s book illustration that was predominant during the ‘Golden Age’ .  In its place there was a commitment to a reduced stylization of figures and objects as well as the omission of detailed settings in favour of a negative space, influenced by the modernist movement.

Modernism in Ian Cole’s illustration in ‘The Young Fur Traders’, 1949.
Illustration from the annual “Chatterbox”, 1940. MDHS Collection 018/008
Illustration from the annual “Chatterbox”, 1940. MDHS Collection 018/008
Illustration from “Winter Holiday’, written and illustrated by Arthur Ransome. On loan.

As a result of World War 2 resources dwindled and the paper shortages of the post-war era placed new demands for keeping publishing costs low. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the austerity of the time, there was a profound longing for color as escapism,

‘The Young Fur Traders’, 1949. Illustrated by Ian Cole

The Famous Five series, written by Enid Blyton and initially illustrated by Eileen Soper, was published during the 1940s. Soper’s distinctive covers are easily recognisable today.

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Dust jacket of Enid Blyton’s “Five on a Treasure Island”. Illustrated by eileen Soper.

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