Margaret Tarrant

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Margaret Winifred Tarrant
A middle aged woman smiling
Born19 August 1888
Battersea, London, England
Died28 July 1959
Cornwall, England
EducationClapham School of Art
Heatherley's School of Art
Guildford School of Art
OccupationChildren's author and illustrator
Christian artist
Years active1908–1952
Known forIllustrations of fairies, children, religious subjects
Notable work
The Water Babies
Forest Fairies
Nursery Rhymes
Parent(s)Percy Tarrant and Sarah Wyatt
Alice meets the White Rabbit by Margaret Winifred Tarrant, 1916

Margaret Winifred Tarrant (19 August 1888 – 29 July 1959) was an English illustrator, and children's author, specializing in depictions of fairy-like children and religious subjects. She began her career at the age of 20, and painted and published into the early 1950s. She was known for her children's books, postcards, calendars, and print reproductions.[1]:134[2]


Tarrant was born in Battersea in South London, England, on 19 August 1888,[3] the only child of landscape painter and illustrator Percy Tarrant and his wife Sarah Wyatt.[2] She began drawing at an early age and never lost her love of drawing or interest in art in general.[2] As a child she used to play at art shows and invite her parents inside a tent she made of a clothes horse and dust sheets to view her drawings pinned up inside.[4]:3 She attended Clapham High School (1898–1905), where she won several prizes for her art.[5] She then attended the Clapham School of Art,[2] where she started to train as an art teacher in 1905[5] (presumably at the Clapham School of Art), but after discussion with her father abandoned this to become a full time watercolour painter and book illustrator.[3][5] Her father encouraged her to take up illustration.[2]

Her parents died within three months of each other in 1934 and Tarrant moved to Peaslake in Surrey in c. 1935. Tarrant never married, but made many loyal and enduring friends, both through her painting and her church membership.[3] Much of her life centred on the activities of her parish church. She helped arrange sales of work for the Church Missionary Society and at one time provided her car and acted as driver for the Vicar, who had no car of his own.[4]:9 Her health and eyesight deteriorated notably in 1953, and by 1958 she felt too unwell to run her home in Peaslake, and joined fellow illustrator Molly Brett in Cornwall in 1958. However she was very ill by this time and spent several months in hospital.[4]:inside back cover

Tarrant died on 28 July 1959.[1]:135 Her estate was valued at £17,413 2s 8d,[6] and after leaving some pictures to friends,[3] she left the rest of her estate to twelve charities.[1]:135


Tarrant began her career by designing Christmas Cards, but it was her book illustration that brought her success and fame.[7] Among the publishers she produced cards for were the Medici Society,[note 1] Hale, Cushman and Flint of Boston, Massachusetts, C. W. Faulkner, and Humphrey Milford.[9] Her postcards were popular, and the illustrations she made for Nursey Rhymes (1914) were reissued as 48 best-selling postcards.[1]:134

Although she was already an established artist she still took courses, first at the Heatherley School of Fine Art in 1918, 1921, and 1923. After moving to Peaslake in Surrey she took a course at the Guildford School of Art, where she met and befriended the illustrator Molly Brett.[5]

She enjoyed a long and fruitful association with The Medici Society, who published her postcards, calendars, prints and other works. She started working regularly with Medici in 1920, and they still publish her work.[5] Her work is still popular and remains in print, as greeting cards, postcards and prints.[3] The Medici Society sponsored a six week trip to Palestine in 1934,[3] and part of her illustrated diary of the trip was published as A Journey to the Holy Land in 1988.[10] She became a Medici Society shareholder in 1938.[3] The Society published a short booklet, Margaret Tarrant and her Pictures, in 1982.[4]

Her pretty, naturalistic illustrations were widely known and very popular, particularly in the 1920s and 1930s,[11] when she was very prolific and famous.[7] Horne notes that "Her delicately coloured and rather sentimental watercolours and pen and ink drawings have remained extremely popular to this day."[5]

Tarrant exhibited mainly in Birmingham, as, as follows: 23 works at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, two works at the Cooling & Sons Gallery, two works at the Dudley Gallery and New Dudley Gallery, eight works at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, four works at the Royal Academy, and two works at the Society of Women Artists.[12]

Selected publications[edit]


The illustrations which made her reputation at only 20 years of age[note 2] were for The Water Babies in 1908.[1]:134

Book cover by Tarrant
  • The Water Babies (1908)
  • Autumn Gleanings from the Poets (1910)
  • Fairy Stories from Hans Christian Andersen (1910)
  • Contes (Charles Perrault, 1910)
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Robert Browning, 1912)
  • Nursery Rhymes (1914)
  • A Picture Birthday Book for Boys and Girls (1915)
  • Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1916)
  • The Tooksy and Mary Alice Tales (1919)
  • Our Day (1923)
  • Rhymes of Old Times (1925)
  • The Magic Lamplighter (Marion St John Webb, 1926)
  • An Alphabet of Magic (Eleanor Farjeon, 1928)
  • Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes (1929)
  • The Margaret Tarrant Birthday Book (1932)
  • Joan in Flowerland (1935) co-written with Lewis Dutton[13]
  • The Margaret Tarrant Nursery Rhyme Book (1944)
  • The Story of Christmas (1952)


  • The Piper of Dreams
  • He Prayeth Best

The Wandering Minstrels, c. 1940

  • Morning Carol
  • Harvest home


  1. ^ Despite the name the Medici Society is not a learned society or a charity but a commercial publisher.[8]
  2. ^ She got the commission when she was 19.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Dalby, Richard (1991). The Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration. Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc. ISBN 0-7858-1427-2.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ortlakes, Denise (2002). "Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888—1959)". Ortlakes. Archived from the original on 2018-07-10. Retrieved 2020-11-12.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Margaret Tarrant's Fairies". Medici Society. Archived from the original on 2014-03-07. Retrieved 2020-11-12.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ a b c d Gurney, John (1982-07-01). Margaret Tarrant and Her Pictures. London: Medici Society.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Horne, Alan (1994). The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club. p. 407. ISBN 1-85149-108-2.
  6. ^ "Wills and Probates 1858-1996: Pages for Tarrant and the year of death 1959". Find a Will Service. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  7. ^ a b Bénézit, Emmanuel (2006). Benezit Dictionary Of Artists. Vol 13: Sommer-Valverane. Paris: Editions Gründ. p. 703. ISBN 978-2-7000-3083-9. Retrieved 2020-09-11 – via The Internet Archive. |volume= has extra text (help)
  8. ^ "A shord History of Medici". Medici Society. 2014. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  9. ^ Coysh, A. W. (1984). The Dictionary of Picture Postcards in Britain 1894-1939. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club. p. 262. ISBN 978-1-85149-231-2.
  10. ^ Tarrant, Margaret Winifred (1988). A Journey to the Holy Land. London: Medici Society. ISBN 978-0-85503-148-0.
  11. ^ Peppin, Bridget; Micklethwait, Lucy (1984). Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: The Twentieth Centrury. London: John Murray. p. 294. ISBN 0-7195-3985-4. Retrieved 2020-06-19 – via The Internet Archive.
  12. ^ Johnson, J.; Greutzner, A. (1905-06-08). The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club. p. 493.
  13. ^ "Picture of Joan in Flowerland". Retrieved 12 January 2015.

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