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A Guide to the Louis Rhead Illustrations

Finding aid prepared by Kerry Elkins

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
July 2014

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Rhead, Louis, 1857-1926
Title: Louis Rhead Illustrations
Dates: 1890-1924
Abstract: Preliminary sketches, final sketches, and page proofs for children's book illustrations by Louis Rhead.
Extent: 0.5 Linear feet. 1 box.
Identification: MS Group 322
Language(s): English

Louis Rhead, 1857-1926

Louis John Rhead was born on November 6, 1857 in Etruria, Staffordshire, England. His father, George Wooliscroft Rhead, started out as a china gilder before working his way up to the position of ceramic artist. Rhead began his artistic training under his father, who taught art classes at the potteries at night. Noticing his talent, Rhead was sent by his parents to Paris to study under Gustave Boulanger, a noted French figure painter, for three years to learn how to draw the human figure. By the time he was 16, Rhead was working at various potteries in Etruria, most notably Milton's Pottery and Wedgewood Pottery where his mastery of detail and decorative borders were developed. This work experience, combined with his studies, served as preparation for Rhead's admission to the National Art Training School in South Kensington, London.

After completing his education at the National Art Training School in 1881, Rhead spent his summer working on sketches and painting in Devon. When he returned to Staffordshire, he turned these sketches into paintings while taking private lessons with Frederick Leighton, president of the Royal Academy at that time. Shortly thereafter, however, Rhead decided to shift his artistic endeavors away from pottery and towards a position as an art director. One of the top publishing firms for children's literature, D. Appleton, offered him a position as art director in New York City. He took the job and immigrated to the United States in 1883. Rhead worked at D. Appleton for six years where he made many contacts in the publishing industry and earned notice with his early works, including: writings on design for Art Interchange as well as designing bindings, book covers, and book plates. By 1887, Rhead was considered one of the best designers of the period.

The late 1880s and early 1890s saw the rise of the poster art craze in the United States and Europe. Rhead left for Paris, the epicenter of poster art, in 1890 where he became acquainted with Eugène Grasset's work. When Rhead returned to the United States after 4 years of studying under Grasset, the publishing firm Harper Brothers and the magazine The Century commissioned Rhead for posters. By the end of 1894, Rhead had sold many posters to magazines. However, Rhead decided to move on to more challenging work of book illustration by using his many contacts in the publishing industry. His first published work was R. H. Russel's 1898 edition of Idylls of the King, in which he collaborated with his brother George Wooliscroft Rhead. Louis Rhead continued to illustration books until his death, completing 16 books for the Harper Brothers' popular Juvenile Series. Simultaneously, he became interested in angling and began to create art featuring the sport. In 1902, he published his first illustrated angling book. Rhead retired to Amityville, Long Island and died on July 29, 1926.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of preliminary sketches, final sketches, and page proofs of various children's books. Also included in the collection is an archival portfolio of Rhead's larger illustrations.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Related or Separated Material

Most of Louis Rhead's published illustrated editions can be found in both the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature and the Harold and Mary Jean Hanson Rare Book Collection.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Louis Rhead Illustrations, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Contents List


Box Folder
1 1 Pilgrim's Progress
1 2 Idylls of the King
1 3 The Sky Pilot: a Tale of the Foothills and Black Rock: a Tale of the Selkirks
1 4 Gulliver's Travels
1 5 Lorna Doone
1 6 Arabian Nights
1 7 Grimm's Fairytales: Stories and tales of elves, goblins and fairies
1 8 Hans Brinker
1 9 Heidi
1 10 The Culprit Fay by Joseph Rodman Drake (unpublished)
1 11 "Jonah cast out by the fish" (unpublished)
1 12 Unnamed biblical scene (unpublished)
1 13 "Ruth and Naomi" (unpublished)
1 14 Unnamed Illustration (unpublished)

Oversize Illustrations

15 Robinson Crusoe
16 The Life and Death of Mr. Badman

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Artist -- pictorial works
Children's literature illustrations
Children's literature, English.
Golden Age of children's literature
Illustration of Books -- United States
Illustrators -- original artwork
Rhead, Louis, 1857-1926

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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