Wesley Dennis (illustrator)

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For the American singer-songwriter, see Wesley Dennis.
Wesley Dennis
Born (1903-05-16)May 16, 1903
Falmouth, Massachusetts[1]
Died September 6, 1966(1966-09-06) (aged 63)
Falmouth, Massachusetts[2]
Nationality American

(John) Wesley Dennis (May 16, 1903 – September 5, 1966)[3][4][5] was an American illustrator, known best for fifteen children's books about horses that he created in collaboration with writer Marguerite Henry.[6] He illustrated over 150 books in his lifetime,[7] including Anna Sewell's Black Beauty and John Steinbeck's The Red Pony.[6] He also wrote and illustrated a few books of his own, among which are Flip, Flip and the Cows, Flip and the Morning, and Tumble.[4]


Wesley Dennis was born on May 16, 1903 in Falmouth, Massachusetts.[1] He grew up on a farm on Cape Cod. During his childhood, he enjoyed drawing pictures of surrounding animals along with his older brother, Morgan.[7]

At age 17, he set out for Boston to look for work.[7] He found illustration jobs with several department stores, including Jordan Marsh and Filene's.[1] He did not intend to become an artist. "Most of my new friends were spending the mornings at the Boston Museum drawing from plaster casts. They wanted to be artists. They usually were broke."[7] However, his brother Morgan convinced him to try to make a living drawing horses. Dennis began by sketching racetrack winners, hoping to receive portrait commissions from the owners. This brought some success.[7] He decided to further his education, and traveled to France to study with artist Lowes Dalbiac Luard, an expert on horse anatomy.[6]

In 1940, Dennis married Dorothy Schiller Boggs.[7]

In 1941, he published his first book, Flip, a "fanciful story about a pony named Flip and his desire to jump the brook."[8] His illustrations attracted author Marguerite Henry, who later wrote, "I had just finished writing Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and wanted the best horse artist in the world to illustrate it. So I went to the library, studied the horse books, and immediately fell in love with the work of Will James and Wesley Dennis. When I found out that Will James was dead, I sent my manuscript to Wesley Dennis." [9] Thus began a 20-year collaboration which resulted in the publication of 15 books.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Wesley Dennis Papers". Children's Literature Research Collections. University of Minnesota Libraries.
  2. ^ "John W. Dennis, 63; Book Illustrator" (abstract). The New York Times.
  3. ^ "The Early Years". Wesley Dennis.
  4. ^ a b The Art of Wesley Dennis. Wesley Dennis.
  5. ^ Juvenile Books Author of the Month: Marguerite Henry Greenville Public Library website
  6. ^ a b c d "Inspired Animation: The Art of Wesley Dennis". National Sporting Library Newsletter Fall 2001
  7. ^ a b c d e f The Free Lance-Star, June 12, 2004
  8. ^ Donna Hess, ed., Best Books for Children, Bob Jones University Press, 1994
  9. ^ Marguerite Henry, Dear Readers and Riders, New York: Rand McNally & Company, 1969, p. 207.

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