Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Horse Book Illustrators, Part One: Paul Brown

This post is one in a series on vintage books about horses and ponies, focusing on the men and women who illustrated the books.  I encourage you to find some of these old books and add them to your collection -- and share them with someone else too!

One of the great joys of being a grownup is that you can finally get some of the things you always wanted to own as a kid.  

Such was the case when I came across a hardback copy of Enid Bagnold's National Velvet at an estate sale the other day.  It was a dollar; I bought it.  I'd expected to pay more.  National Velvet was first published in 1935; my new/old copy is much newer.

Of course I read National Velvet when I was a kid -- about a hundred times -- but my tattered old copy was a Scholastic Books paperback.  I'd always wanted the hardback version illustrated by Paul Brown.

Many people who've commented on National Velvet say that Enid Bagnold's writing style takes a few pages to get used to.  But Bagnold's story of pre-war England -- the girl, the family, the horse, the dream -- is wonderful, and worth digging into.  Paul Brown's illustrations give the narrative even more life.

How does the artist capture the horse's expression, its body language, 
when it has to decide whether it wants to trust a human?  
Somehow, Paul Brown did.

Velvet with The Pie again, this time after the Grand National.  
It appears to me that he's not skeptical of her now.

For those of you not familiar with the book, but who've seen the 1944 MGM film of the story with Elizabeth Taylor in the title role, ably supported by Mickey Rooney, Anne Revere, Donald Crisp, Angela Lansbury, Reginald Owen, Arthur Treacher and others -- yes, this is the same story.  "The Pie" was a piebald horse in the book, rather than the chestnut "Pirate" of the film.

The Horse and Hound in Art website says:

Paul Desmond Brown (1893-1958) was a prolific illustrator and artist of equestrian sports and country life. Brown was born in Mapleton , Minnesota and as a young child he began drawing horses and equestrian sports.

Although he never owned a horse, he was an avid fan of horse sports and frequented hunt race meetings, polo matches, racetracks and horse shows. He studied everything about horses and became an expert at portraying them.

He is especially known for his gift to accurately depict horses in motion. During his career, he wrote and illustrated 32 books and illustrated another 100 by various authors. In addition to books, his works appeared in numerous periodicals.

As a commercial artist, he is recognized for the hundreds of drawings used by Brooks Brothers of New York in their advertising and promotional materials. He died in 1959 in Garden City, New York .

Paul Brown did illustrations for other companies as well.  I was surprised to open a 1933 Better Homes and Gardens magazine (which I found at an estate sale) a couple of years ago and see this Paul Brown illustration for Listerine.  

Paul Brown excelled as a children's book illustrator.  This one is from a small book for young children (which I also found at an estate sale) called We Live On a Farm:

Many people collect Paul Brown's books. Do you have any favorites?  

I'm hopeful I can find more Paul Brown horse and pony books at estate sales in the future!  

To say, "Paul Brown illustrated horse books!" is the understatement of the day.  The book Paul Brown: Master of Equine Art has a list of all the publications he illustrated:

Here's The Horse and Hound in Art's web page on Paul Brown:

A great resource for information on horse books, including those by Paul Brown, is Jane Badger's website:

The UK website Pony Mad Book Lovers has pictures of several Paul Brown horse book covers:

A mother lode of Paul Brown's equine art is located here:

Lois on Pinterest has some nice photos of Paul Brown's work:

You can read most of the first couple of chapters of National Velvet here:

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