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Virginia Frances Sterrett, Complete Color Illustrations

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Virginia Frances Sterrett

The Complete Color Images


Illustrations by Virginia Frances Sterrett

All of the color illustrations to Old French Fairy Tales, Tanglewood Tales, and The Arabian Nights are presented here.

Coming Eventually: The black and white illustrations, and board drawings.

Biographical Information

Virginia Frances Sterrett (1900-1931) was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1900. She was an introverted child who preferred the world of imagination and drawing to social interaction with other children at school. When her father died, her family moved to Missouri to live near relatives. While she was living in the heartland, she won several awards at the Kansas State Fair (c. 1913), an event that encouraged her to focus even more on drawing.

In 1915, Virginia and her family returned to Chicago. She started high school with the intention to study art but soon migrated to the Art Institute of Chicago, where she was admitted on a complete scholarship. Virginia left the Institute little more than a year later, when her mother became ill. Virginia became the sole support of her family, working in art advertising agencies around Chicago.

It was not long before her own health began to fail; she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Her first commission came in 1919. She was commissioned by Penn Publishing Company to illustrate the Comptesse de Ségur's Old French Fairy Tales. She was 19 and received $500 for the eight watercolors and 16 pen and ink drawings, with a supplemental $250 for a colored drawing for the cover and ink drawings for the end papers and boards. This was quickly followed by another commission for Tanglewood Tales from the same publisher, Penn Publishing Company.

In 1923, the family moved to the warmer climate of southern California, making their home in Altadena, nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains just north of Pasadena. There was a slight improvement in her health, but it didn't last and she entered Compton Sanitorium. Her health was now curtailing her work and she could only draw for a short time eat day. She started a new series of illustrations for Arabian Nights but the declining state of her health, it took three years to complete. The Arabian Nights, her last published works, are considered her masterpiece.

Between 1929 and 1930, Virginia's health improved slightly and she was able to move home with her family. She exhibited locally at the Little Gallery in Monrovia, California; and entered competitions at the Los Angeles County Fair and the California State Fair.

In 1930, Virginia began work on her last commission, a series of illustration for Myths and Legends. This commission was never completed; her health took a turn for the worse and she died on June 8, 1931. She was 30 years old.

About Art Passions: Art Passions began a tribute to artists whose work I grew up, and whose work has meaning for me personally. The list of artists on, including recent additions to the site, as well as other information are available on the home page.


Illustrations to Old French Fairy Tales (1919-1920)

This collection of five tales by the Comtesse de Ségur are uncommon in English. Illustrations to the five tales: Blondine, Bonne-Biche, and Beau Mignon; Good Little Henry, Princess Rossette, The Little Gray Mouse, and Our Son are presented here.

You can also read Old French Fairy Tales online

Illustrations to The Arabian Nights (1923-1928)

Versions of The Arabian Nights were popular for children in the early 20th century, being illustrated by Kay Nielsen, Edmund Dulac, Maxfield Parrish, E.J. Detmold, as well as Virginia Frances Sterrett. All present a selection of stories in the tale-within-a-tale framework. This section contains stories from The Voyages of Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin, and Baba Abdallah, and the calendar histories.

Illustrations to Tanglewood Tales (1921)

Along with The Wonder Book, Tanglewood Tales was the first introduction early 19th century children had to classical mythology. Here are illustrations to six myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Minotaur, The Pygmies, The Dragon's Teeth, The Pomegranate Seeds, and The Golden Fleece.

You can also Read Tanglewood Tales online.