|Wanda Hazel Gág|
Wanda Gág as a young artist, c. 1918.
|Born||March 11, 1893
New Ulm, Minnesota
|Died||Cremated, Ashes scattered|
|Occupation||Artist, Writer, Translator|
|Notable work(s)||Millions of Cats|
|Notable award(s)||Newbery Honor Award
Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
Caldecott Honor Award
Wanda Hazel Gág (1893–1946) was an American artist, author, translator and illustrator. She is most noted for writing and illustrating the children's book Millions of Cats which won a Newbery Honor Award and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. It is the oldest American picture book still in print. The ABC Bunny also received a Newbery Honor Award. Her books Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Nothing at All each won a Caldecott Honor Award. In 1940 a book of edited excerpts from her diaries covering the years 1908 to 1917 was published as Growing Pains; it received wide acclaim.
Early life 
Born March 11, 1893 in New Ulm, Minnesota, named Wanda Hazel Gag. Her parents, Elisabeth Biebl Gag and Anton Gag, were artists and photographers of Bohemian descent. She was the eldest of seven children who all drew and sang; most of them wrote stories and poems as well. While still a young teen Gág's illustrated story Robby Bobby in Mother Goose Land was published in The Minneapolis Journal in their Junior Journal supplement.
When Gág was fifteen her father died of tuberculosis. She became determined to make a good living from being an artist, at least partially due to her father's final words to her: "Was der Papa nicht thun konnt', muss die Wanda halt fertig machen." (What Papa couldn't do, Wanda will have to finish.) Following her father's death, the Gag family was on welfare, and many people suggested that Wanda get a steady job. However, she remained in school, graduating in June 1912 and then teaching country school in Springfield, Minnesota from November 1912 to June 1913.
Art school 
From 1913 to 1914, Gág attended The Saint Paul School of Art. From 1914 to 1917 she attended The Minneapolis School of Art under the patronage of Herschel V. Jones. It was there she met Adolf Dehn who would become her lover for a time and remained a lifelong friend. In 1917, she won a scholarship to the Art Students League of New York as well as her first book commission, illustrating A Child’s Book of Folk-Lore— Mechanics of Written English by Jean Sherwood Rankin.
New York 
In 1917, Gág moved to Greenwich Village. At the Art Students League she took classes in composition, etching and advertising Illustration. By 1919 she was earning a living as a commercial illustrator. Around this time she added an accent mark in her last name to aid in proper pronunciation (her last name rhymes with "log", not "wag".) In 1921 she became a partner in a business venture called "Happiwork Story Boxes", boxes decorated with story panels in the sides. This business, along with several other ventures, failed. An illustration of Gág's was published in Broom: An International Magazine of the Arts in 1921. Her art exhibition in the New York Public Library in 1923 was Gág's first solo show. She continued exploring artistic projects, publishing a magazine with artist William Gropper titled Folio, it lasted one issue. Her one-woman-show in New York's Weyhe Gallery in 1926 led to her recognition as "one of America's most promising young graphic artists". In 1927 her article "A Hotbed of Feminists" was published in The Nation, drawing the attention of Alfred Stieglitz. Gág illustrated the March 1927 cover of the leftist magazine The New Masses. Her illustrated story Bunny's Easter Egg was published in John Martin's Book magazine for children in 1927.
Books for children 
Gág's work interested Ernestine Evans, director of Coward-McCann's new children's book division. Evans disliked the common children's books of the day, and was looking for new authors and artists to create more realistic, less idealized books. She wanted Gág to illustrate a new edition of an older book, but Gág refused, saying "I am simply not interested in illustration as such... It has to be a story that takes hold of me way down deep". Evans asked her to submit her own story with illustrations. Millions of Cats appeared in 1928. It won the Newbery Honor award, a rare achievement for a picture book. Gág carefully oversaw every aspect of the production of this book. When a second printing was made from inferior copies because the originals had been lost, Gág was unhappy with the results and redrew the missing pieces.
There was a movement among educators at the time against fairy tales. Some educators (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sarah Trimmer and Lucy Sprague Miller) disparaged fairy tales, preferring more realistic literature for children. Gág disagreed. "I know I should feel bitterly cheated if, as a child, I had been deprived of all fairy lore..." To encourage the use of these stories, Gág published Tales from Grimm in 1936. Two years later she translated and illustrated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a reaction against the "trivialized, sterilized, and sentimentalized" Disney movie version. Her essay "I Like Fairy Tales" was published in the March 1939 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Nothing at All became a Caldecott Honor book for 1942. More Tales from Grimm appeared posthumously in 1947, and three of her translated fairy tales were later released individually with new illustrations.
Printmaking and drawing 
In addition her books for children Gág created numerous lithographs, wood engravings and drawings. Her work was recognized nationally, including inclusion in the American Institute of Graphic Arts Fifty Prints of the Year in 1928, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1936, 1937 and 1938. Many of her prints are in the collection of The National Gallery of Art.
Family and domestic life 
Gág liked to work in the country. In the early twenties she would spend her summers drawing at various locations in rural New England, New York and Connecticut. She rented a three acre farm in Glen Gardner New Jersey from 1925 to 1930 ("Tumble Timbers") and she purchased a larger farm ( "All Creation") in Milford, New Jersey in 1931. She continued to support her adult siblings, some of whom lived with her from time to time. Gág's brother Howard did the hand lettering for her picture books and she encouraged her sister, Flavia Gág, to write children's books. On August 27, 1943 Gág married her long-time paramour and business manager Earle Humphrey.
Gág developed lung cancer and died in New York City June 27, 1946. Her papers are held in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota, The New York Public Library, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Writer and Illustrator:
- Batiking at Home: a Handbook for Beginners, Coward McCann, 1926
- Millions of Cats, Coward McCann, 1928
- The Funny Thing, Coward McCann, 1929
- Snippy and Snappy, Coward McCann, 1931
- Wanda Gág’s Storybook (includes Millions of Cats, The Funny Thing, Snippy and Snappy), Coward McCann, 1932
- The ABC Bunny, Coward McCann, 1933
- Gone is Gone; or, the Story of a Man Who Wanted to Do Housework, Coward McCann, 1935
- Growing Pains: Diaries and Drawings for the Years 1908-1917, Coward McCann, 1940
- Nothing At All, Coward McCann, 1941
Translator and Illustrator:
- Tales from Grimm, Coward McCann, 1936
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Coward McCann, 1938
- Three Gay Tales from Grimm, Coward McCann, 1943
- More Tales from Grimm, Coward McCann, 1947
- A Child’s Book of Folk-Lore— Mechanics of Written English by Jean Sherwood Rankin, Augsburg, 1917
- The Oak by the Waters of Rowan by Spencer Kellog Jr, Aries Press, New York, 1927
- The Day of Doom by Michael Wigglesworth, Spiral Press, 1929
Selected prints 
See also 
Further reading 
|About Wanda Gág|
|By Wanda Gág|
- Hoyle, Karen, Wanda Gág, Twayne Publishers, 1994
- O'Hara, Megan, The Girlhood Diary of Wanda Gág, 1908-1909: Portrait of a young Artist, Blue Earth Books, 2001
- Ray, Deborah Kogan, Wanda Gág: The Girl who Lived to Draw, Viking, 2008
- "Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág". The Wild Place. Richland County Public Library. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Wanda Gág, Growing Pains. Borealis/Minnesota Historical Society Press, Saint Paul, p. xviii
- Wanda Gág bio, Minnesota Historical Society. Accessed Apr. 26, 2011.
- Audur H. Winnan, Wanda Gág, Smithsonian Institute Press, 1993, p. 2
- Richard W. Cox, Minnesota History, Fall 1974, p. 250
- Gág, p. xxxi
- Winnan, p. 89
- Gág, p. 314
- Gág, p. 459
- Gág, p. 466
- Karen Nelson Hoyle "Wanda Gág a Life of Art and Stories" pp. 8-10, University of Minnesota Press, 2009
- Hoyle, pp. 10-13
- Harold A. Loeb, New York, 1921, vol. II, no. 2
- Winnan, p. 13
- Hoyle, p. 13
- Cech, John (editor), Dictionary of Literary Biographies: American Writers for Children, 1900-1960, Gale Research, 1983, vol. 22, p. 183
- Winnan, p. 36
- Andrew Hemingway, Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement 1926-1956, 2002
- John Martin's House: New York, vol. XXXV, issue no. 4
- Cech, p. 184
- "Newbery Awards". Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Cech, p. 185
- Hoyle, p. 59
- Cech, p. 187
- Silvey, Anita, The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin, 2002, p. 171
- Winnan, pp. 72-76
- Winnan, pp. 71-73
- New Ulm Journal, July 29, 2010
- Winnan, p. 61
- Chevalier, Tracy (editor), Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, St. James Press, 1989, p. 370
- http://www.wandagaghouse.org/ Wanda Gag House, accessed June 2012
- Wanda Gág bio, University of Minnesota Press. Accessed Apr. 26, 2011
- Gwyneth Swain, Wanda Gág: storybook artist
- Wanda Gág images, National Gallery of Art
- Wanda Gág - Rights and Restrictions Information (Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress)
- Minnesota Authors Biography Project
- Wanda Gag House
- Comrades in Art: Wanda Ga'g