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Dahlov Ipcar 50 years a Painter and Illustrator

August 26, 2014

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In a career spanning more than half a century, Maine artist Dahlov Ipcar has written and illustrated more than thirty children’s and young adult books, starting with The Little Fisherman (by Margaret Wise Brown) in 1945 and including The Cat at Night, One Horse Farm, and My Wonderful Christmas Tree.

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She was raised in Greenwich Village, New York City, attended City and Country School, Caroline Pratt’s progressive school, and grew up surrounded by bohemian influences.Encouraged by her parents, she started painting at a very young age. She briefly attended Oberlin, dropping out after only one semester, frustrated with the academic restrictions on her artistic expression.

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I love the colours in her ‘Lobsterman’ book. It does remind me of my own time in Maine a few years ago.

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In 1936, at the age of 19, Dahlov married Adolph Ipcar, a young man hired to tutor her in math for her college tests.They spent that year in New York City, Adolph working as a math tutor while Dahlov taught art two days a week. The following winter, they decided to move into the extra farm house on Dahlov’s parent’s property in Georgetown, Maine, and started a farm of their own. They became modern-day subsistence farmers: growing their own food, raising animals and their two sons, as well as selling eggs and milk on the side for extra money. Dahlov continued painting throughout her life as both a source of pleasure and income. Her marriage lasted until 2003, when Adolph died at the age of 98 after a brief illness.

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I can imagine this book was inspired by her own farm life.

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By the early 1940s, Ipcar had nearly given up thoughts of writing and illustrating books, but was contacted by a New York publisher to illustrate The Little Fisherman, the latest title at that time, by Margaret Wise Brown. The struggling young artist jumped at the chance, and this charming title helped launch a four decade run that saw her write and illustrate more than thirty children’s books of her own. She has also written four fantasy novels for a slightly older audience, as well as a volume of short stories for adults. While her art in general might be described as wild colours and cheerful, her writings for adults turn to a darker, almost grim intertwining of reality and fantasy. Here’s just a few of her book covers from over the years.

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Flying Eye Books have managed to republish two of her books namely ‘I Like Animals’ and ‘The Wonderful Egg’. There’s a great deal of work that goes into reproducing a book in it’s original form and print processes. You can see more in this article on the Design Of The Picture Book site. They are beautifully printed and I was lucky to get a copy of I like Animals for myself.

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Her personal paintings appear to be animal centered and focus on a mix of slightly stylised and slightly realistic animal shapes with busy, patterned, geometric backgrounds. Colourful and fun.

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I think my lurcher ‘Boo’ would like this crowd to run around with.

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Today, Ipcar’s intricate, distinctive, and fanciful artwork is known worldwide, with pieces of her work in the collections of numerous renowned museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ipcar still lives and paints in the 1860’s farmhouse that she shared with Adolph for nearly seventy years.

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In 2001, she received The Katahdin Award, a lifetime achievement award from the Maine Library Association, and in 2010, she was awarded the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s prestigious President’s Award for her outstanding contribution to arts and letters.

Dahlov says about her work ” I have lived most of my life surrounded by the serenity and natural beauty of Maine, yet my art is done entirely from imagination. I strive to create my own unique vision of the world. I am intrigued and inspired by the endless variety of patterns and forms in nature; they arouse in me the desire to create forms and patterns of my own.

While many people view the world through the eyes of past artists, I feel that it is up to the artists of the present to reveal new ways of seeing the world and to create new worlds never before seen. Increasingly, I have come to feel that the reality created by the artist is more important than actual reality. The real world may come to seem oppressively dull and barren unless transformed and revitalized by imagination ”

Check out more on her most colourful site here.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2014 2:03 pm

    I got a kick out of her ‘Bringing In the Pumpkins’, so apt for this time of year–nearing fall. Thank you for featuring her work, so bright and so many patterns. This is just what I needed to see this morning.

    • August 26, 2014 2:06 pm

      Of course you’ll get more pumpkins in the fields in your neck of the woods than we ever see here (apart from in the supermarkets!). Glad it helped brighten your day : )

  2. August 26, 2014 8:12 pm

    What lovely work. Especially love the posts about illustrators of the past.
    Thanks

    • August 26, 2014 11:36 pm

      It’s always a pleasure to bring the work of these artists to light for everyone to appreciate. Thanks for your comment Shannon.

  3. August 27, 2014 11:44 am

    Mome Raths & Tiger Rabbits! Love her work, makes me feel like I’ve stumbled into wonderland.

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