Mabel Lucie Attwell
(1879-1964)
Mabel Lucie Attwell became a household name during the 1930’s and 40’s with her illustrations of pudgy and appealing toddlers. The public’s insatiable appetite for her illustrations generated an extensive market for Mabel Lucie Attwell ephemera.

Childhood & Education

Mabel Lucie Attwell was born 4 June 1879 at Mile End in London, the ninth child out of ten children born to a butcher. 

She studied at both the Regent School of Art and Heatherley’s School of Art, but because she disliked formal training and grew bored with copying, she never completed either course. She preferred to illustrate her own fantasies.

Professional Career

By the time Attwell was sixteen years old, she had enough drawings of fairies and children to bring them to a leading London artists’ agency. The lukewarm reception that she received was upsetting to the young artist but short-lived. She was notified several days later that not only had all the drawings sold, but that they wanted more!

In 1908, Attwell married the illustrator Harold Cecil Earnshaw, and had two children, Peter and Peggy. Their daughter Peggy was the inspiration for the typical Mabel Lucie Attwell toddler and achieved immortality through the illustrations in Attwell’s books. Peggy (Wickham) later became a talented artist and illustrator in her own right.

Between 1905 and 1913, Attwell illustrated ten books for W. & R. Chambers, providing 4 to 8 color plates for each. By 1911, she was designing postcards and greeting cards for Valentine & Sons of Dundee. 

She illustrated two gift books for Hodder & Stoughton. The first was Peeping Pansy in 1918 by Marie, Queen of Roumania. The Queen even invited Attwell to stay at the Royal Palace in Bucharest. The second book was Peter Pan and Wendy by J. M. Barrie who admired her work and personally requested her to illustrate this edition.

During Attwell’s career, she designed advertisements, posters, calendars, figurines and wall plaques. During the First World War, thousands of her colored postcards were sent to cheer up the troops in the trenches. One of her most famous drawings, ‘Diddums’, was made into a doll, a typically Attwell styled boy doll which was to be found in nurseries around the world. In 1937 and 1938, Princess Margaret commissioned her to do her personal Christmas card.  Attwell also contributed to several periodicals and annuals. In 1943, she started a comic strip in the London Opinion called “Wot a Life”. Sets of Mabel Lucie Attwell China were used in the Royal Nursery of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, and later Prince Charles.

Her illustrations of chubby, winsome children were extremely popular during the 1930’s and 40’s. Although she was criticized for theirsweetness, she became a wide commercial success.

In 1945 Attwell moved to Fowey, Cornwall to live with her son Peter. She died at home on 5 November 1964.

Style & Technique

She worked mostly in watercolor and pen-and-ink. Her early work was delicate and appealing, but later she was criticized for providing formula illustrations—no variety of concept or technique. One critic noted:

“Such genuine talent as she had was soon submerged in the mediocrity of endless pictures of chubby, dimpled babies and infants, so that her name became synonymous in Britain with the sentimentalization of childhood.”


Raison d’Être

“I see the child in the adult, then I draw the adult as a child . . .”
Childrens’ Books Illustrated
  • Baldwin, May, That Little Lamb, Chambers, c. 1905.
  • Burrill, K., The Amateur Cook, Chambers, 1905.
  • Quiller-Couch, Mabel, Troublesome Ursula, Chambers, 1905.
  • Baldwin, May, Dora, a High School Girl, Chambers, 1906.
  • Mar, G., The Little Tin Soldier, Chambers, 1909.
  • Molesworth, Mrs., The February Boys, Chambers, 1909.
  • Old Rhymes, Raphael Tuck, 1909.
  • Mother Goose Fairy Tales, Raphael Tuck, 1910.
  • The Old Pincushion, Chambers, 1910.
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland, Raphael Tuck, 1910.
  • Nursery Tales, Nelson, c. 1910.
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Cassell, 1910.
  • Fairy Tales, Stories and Legends, Cassell, 1910.
  • Jacbern, R., Tabitha Smallways, Schoolgirl, Chambers, 1912.
  • Grimm’s Fairy Stories, Raphael Tuck, 1912.
  • Baldwin, May, Troublesome Topsy and Her Friends, Chambers, 1913.
  • Our Playtime Picture Book, Raphael Tuck, 1913.
  • Andersen, Hans Christen, Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Raphael Tuck, 1914.
  • Kingsley, Charles, The Water Babies, Raphael Tuck, 1916.
  • Meade, L.T., A Band of Mirth, Chambers, 1917. 
  • Ashley, D., Children’s Stories from French Fairy Tales, Raphael Tuck, 1917.
  • Queen Marie, consort of King Ferdinand of Roumania, Peeping Pansy, Hodder & Stoughton Limited, 1919.
  • Marshall, Archibald, Wooden, Collins, 1920.
  • Puss in Boots and Other Fairy Tales, Nelson, 1920.
  • Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan and Wendy, Hodder & Stoughton Limited, 1921.
  • Rainy-Day Tales, 1931.
  • Rock-Away Tales, 1931.
  • Fairy Book, Partridge, 1932.
  • Happy-Day Tales, Dean, 1932.
  • Quiet Time Tales, 1932.
  • Playtime Pictures, Carlton, 1935.
Children's Books Written and Illustrated
  • The Boo-Boos Series, Valentine, 1921-22.
  • Lucie Attwell’s Annual, Partridge, 1922-1926.
  • Baby’s  Book, Raphael Tuck, 1922.
  • Lucie Attwell’s Children’s Book, Dean, 1927-1932.
  • Lucie Attwell’s Annual, Dean, 1933-1974.
  • Lucie Attwell’s Painting Books, Dean, 1934.
  • Lucie Attwell’s Great Big Midget Books, Dean, 1934-35.
  • Story Books, Dean, 1943-45.
  • Jolly Book, 1953.
  • Nursery Rhymes Pop-up Book, 1958.
  • Book of Verse, 1960.
  • Book of Rhymes, Dean, 1962.
  • Tales for Bedtime, Dean, nd.
  • Wide Awake, Dean, nd.
  • Cuddle Time, Dean, nd.
  • Cutie Tales, Dean, nd.
Contributed to
  • Cassell’s Children’s Annual
  • Father Tuck’s Annual
  • Little Folks
  • London Opinion
  • Pearson’s Magazine
  • Printer’s Pie
  • Strand Magazine, 
  • Winter’s Pie


Images from Grimm's Fairy Tales and Peter Pan and Wendy

More Images from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
(This site will open in a new window.)

Carroll, Lewis, Alice in
Wonderland, Raphael Tuck,
1910. Image courtesy of
David Neal.
Carroll, Lewis, Alice in
Wonderland, Raphael Tuck,
1910. Image courtesy of
David Neal.
Little Folks, December,
1914.
Little Folks, November,
1916.
Kingsley, Charles, The
Water Babies, Raphael
Tuck, 1916.
Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
and Wendy, Hodder &
Stoughton Limited, 1921.
Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
and Wendy, Hodder &
Stoughton Limited, 1921.
Postcard
Sources
Dalby, Richard, The Golden Age of Children’s Book Illustration, New York, Gallery, 1991.
Doyle, Brian, The WHO’S WHO of Children’s Literature, New York, Shocken Books.
Horne, Alan, The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators, Suffolk, Antique Collector’s Club, 1994.
Peppin, Brigid, and Micklethwait, Lucy, Book Illustrators of the Twentieth Century, New York, Arco, 1984.
© 1999–2002 Denise Ortakales
All Illustrations are copyright by their respective owners.
This page last updated on 24 Auguste 2002.

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