The Journey Towards "Home"
In April 2023, Brady Schwind, Executive Director of The Arts of Imagination Foundation, traveled to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to lead a guest lecture exploring how we look at art and timeless stories through the lens of different cultural perspectives.
To illustrate the conversation, The Arts of Imagination Foundation brought designer Tom H. John’s original concept art for scenic designs for the 1975 Broadway premiere of THE WIZ, allowing students the opportunity for a first hand experience.
Over a hundred pieces of Tom John’s original artwork was also digitally scanned during the trip, in anticipation of an immersive virtual reality experience to premiere at UNC’s “Charl-Oz” Festival in autumn 2024, which will allow viewers to enter 3D representations of the scenery and to embellish it virtually with their own imaginations.
Special thanks to Dr. Janaka Lewis and Dina Massachi for sponsoring the The Arts of Imagination Foundation at the University of North Carolina.
Archiving the 'Oz Club'
As part of its ongoing preservation efforts through The Lost Art of Oz, The Arts of Imagination Foundation is pleased to be assisting The International Wizard of Oz Club with the cataloging of the Club's archives, which includes rare original artworks by W.W. Denslow, John R. Neill, Frank Kramer, and Dick Martin.
Archival cataloging begins with measuring, photographing, and astutely describing an artifact in writing. For the Oz artwork, the process of notation includes documenting pencil marks made by the artist and printer in margins and on the back.
Removing acidic mattes and plastic sheeting ensures the art's continued well-being and often reveals surprises. Illustrator, John R. Neill was fond of doing completely unrelated drawings on the reverse sides of his illustration boards!
Besides documenting the physical attributes of a piece, cataloging also attempts to capture details about the art's provenance, or history, along with information about where the art has been featured in print and publicly exhibited.
The combined information the cataloging process collects can bring new insights into how artists and printers worked with the materials, and how the artifact has been valued historically, while also organizing important details in a way that makes them more accessible for future researchers.
The Kerlan Collection of Children's Literature at the University of Minnesota boasts one of the finest and largest archives of materials related to children's literature in the world. This past weekend, The Lost Art of Oz founder, Brady Schwind teamed with Bill Campbell of The Oz Enthusiast to revisit and photograph the Kerlan's collection of artwork drawn by original Oz book illustrators, W.W. Denslow and Dick Martin.
The Kerlan Collection was launched in the 1940s by Dr. Irvin Kerlan, then a medical research chief at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Kerland parlayed his hobby of collecting books into a partnership with the University of Minnesota, which became one of the first institutes in the country to seriously preserve and archive manuscripts, artwork, and background materials related to children's literature, a field largely not given serious consideration by serious academics and bibliophiles of the time.
Kerlan would, himself, directly reach out to authors and illustrators to solicit materials, and in the 1960s, was gifted photo stat copies of artwork drawn by Dick Martin for his 1960 retelling of L. Frank Baum's Visitors from Oz.
The Kerlan Collection also contains a number of early pencil sketches drawn by Martin for his 1961 picture book adaptations of Baum's The Land of Oz and Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Like his Oz illustration predecessor, John R. Neill, Dick Martin worked quickly. One story reports that the entire suite of drawings for Dorothy and the Wizard was completed by Martin in just a single weekend. Like Neill, Martin's early pencil sketches show an economy of idea -- with most correlating near exactly with the finished artwork in the published book.
Perhaps the most charming of the Martin sketches in the Kerlan collection is a color character 'key sketch' for Dorothy, outlining the details of her wardrobe to help the illustrator retain continuity throughout the drawing process.
The Kerlan collection also boasts several fine examples of artwork by W.W. Denslow, including the publisher's 'dummy' for Paul West's The Pearl and The Pumpkin (1904) and a number of exceptional original pen and ink illustrations for Denslow's Zoo, a softcover staple-bound picture book first published by G.W. Dillingham in 1903.
Though not directly related, Denslow's Zoo features several characterizations, including those for a lion and a clown, that strongly resemble his work for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).
“The Lost Art of Oz” founder, Brady Schwind was honored to be a keynote speaker at the International Wizard of Oz Club’s 2022 convention hosted in historic East Aurora, New York, home of the Roycrofters / Arts and Crafts movement.
The Convention’s theme this year honored W.W. Denslow and the Royal Illustrators of Oz. Brady spoke about his ongoing efforts to find, catalogue, and preserve the original artwork created by Denslow, John R. Neill, Frank Kramer, “Dirk,” and Dick Martin for the original Oz book series, and recounted stories about the fascinating individual journeys key pieces of art have made over the last 100 years.
The presentation was highlighted with over 40 examples of illustrative art representing the work of each of the original illustrators of Oz.
The Arts of Imagination Foundation also leant original copper printing plates, first used to publish the Oz books in the early 20th century, for use in a printmaking class utilizing the antique Roycroft printing press.
Convention chair, Cindy Ragni did a fantastic job creating a weekend of fascinating conversation, education, and exploration, and “The Lost Art of Oz” was particularly grateful to meet, in-person, collectors and scholars who have provided invaluable insights and support to our endeavors.
MORE 'LOST ART FOUND!
Last year, we chronicled the exciting rediscovery of an original full-page pen and ink illustration drawn by W.W. Denslow for THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in 1900. This was the first major Oz find of its kind in decades, and it gave hope that even after over 120 years, works of this importance are still out there waiting to be discovered.
In March of this year, lightning struck again when two additional full-page illustrations by Denslow for THE WIZARD surprisingly turned up at Bradford’s Auction Gallery in Arizona. Bradford’s Auction Gallery is a modest operation, specializing in area estate sales, and it was revealed that the Oz drawings came from an estate in northern Arizona near Sedona. The owners of the illustrations were not art collectors, and apparently had little idea of their value.
The auction, which was conducted exclusively through an online internet bidding platform, generated immediate and excited interest, resulting in two record breaking sales for Denslow’s work.
The first edition of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ featured 24 color plate illustrations. With the discovery of the three drawings of the past year, only a handful of full-page drawings for the book are still at large, though only about 1/3 of the book’s total illustrations are accounted for. The search continues!
A fun fact: Early copies of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ feature red ‘hills’ on the horizon behind the Scarecrow and Stork. This has become one of the keynotes for identifying first state editions.
When I first launched The Lost Art of Oz project in 2018, I had no idea of the extraordinary adventure that was waiting for me. It began as a literary treasure hunt, but much like the story of Oz itself, it blossomed into a tale of friendship, community, and joyful personal discovery.
I believe connecting and reconnecting people to classic stories can uplift the world and help people to live their best lives. I feel it so strongly that in July of this year, I founded The Arts of Imagination Foundation to expand upon the work of The Lost Art of Oz, bringing the enduring power of timeless stories to an even bigger audience.
On the horizon are outreach programs, partnerships on major museum exhibits, scholarships that support the art of storytelling, and, of course, ongoing preservation and championing of artwork and historic materials related to universal stories. For those who would like to adventure with us in a deeper way, as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, your gifts and donations are 100% tax deductible.
As we look to 2022, we at The Arts of Imagination Foundation wish each of you a year filled with health and joy. Speaking personally, I hope it’s also a year in which your personal yellow brick path ignites your imagination and inspires you to share it. When you share your light with the world, good things are not only possible – they are probable.
We hope you will follow our journey!
With greatest appreciation,
Brady Schwind and The Arts of Imagination Foundation
Life and work in Chicago during the early days of the 20th century meant a day to day adventure through a wild and wooly metropolis.
Surrounded by the din and dust of industrial factories, streets crowded by thousands of workers, and a spider web of electrical wires that tended to inspire a weekly barrage of building fires, The Reilly & Britton Company made a decision in 1912 to get out.
Relocating in May of that year to a quiet spot on Michigan Boulevard, where Grant Park and Lake Michigan kissed, must have seemed a luxurious - and bold - move to rivals in the publishing industry. But Reilly & Britton, started only a decade before had, like the city of Chicago itself, grown to surprising success. A success due mostly to the outstanding sales of a single author - L. Frank Baum.
Settling into a new office, which occupied the entire 19,000 square foot fifth floor at the Graphic Arts Building, was a chance for the company to both consolidate its efforts, and expand its reach into limitless potential in what seemed to be an idyllic environment.
A pair of newspaper advertisements, recently rediscovered by author, Michael Patrick Hearn, however, speak to an event (or perhaps even a series of events) that occurred scarcely a year into their new residence that must have rattled that confidence.
A sale list posted by the Emporium Department Store in The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, February 8, 1914 announces that 3,000 juvenile books published by Reilly & Britton will be offered at cut prices after being water damaged due to a fire in an adjoining building. An ad a year later in The Washington Post offers similarly “spotted” lots from stock “suffered a loss through the unexpected release of [Reilly & Britton’s] sprinkling system.”
In The Lost Art of Oz search, one of the central mysteries is the missing artwork for early Baum titles like Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, John Dough and the Cherub, and Sky Island. Indeed, some of illustrator, John R. Neill’s most sumptuous efforts were drawn pre-1914, but are unaccounted for.
Along with book stock, could original series artwork have been badly damaged in the event mentioned in these clippings?
Not knowing how the artwork was stored in the firm’s offices, it does seem possible. And no doubt, if badly damaged by water or smoke, artwork which was drawn on illustration board in pen and ink or painted in watercolor might simply have been discarded. On the other hand, artwork from other early Reilly & Britton titles, like The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Road to Oz is known to survive, and none of it appears to have suffered any related fire or water damage.
For now the evidence remains inconclusive. But the ads do provide an interesting speculative footnote into Oz archival history.
Special thanks to Michael Patrick Hearn and Atticus Gannaway for providing materials and expert opinion for this article.
LOST ART FOUND!
When it comes to 'lost art,' the hope is always the same. That somebody out there somewhere will come across something long forgotten in an attic that turns out to be missing gold. It can be a pipe dream wish, but sometimes - just sometimes - as if from the Land of Oz itself, a little magic makes that miracle happen.
Last week, I was contacted by a gentleman in Texas, who reached out about a drawing he had recently rediscovered. It had been in his family as long as he could remember, but always tucked away in a closet, along with the bits of paper, keys, and balls of string that tend to live in the bottom of drawers and that are carted house to house unexamined for generations.
He knew little about the drawing itself, other than he thought it was something his granddaughters might enjoy, as it seemed to have something to do with the story of THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Closer examination revealed that not only was the illustration, indeed, Oz related, it was one of W.W. Denslow's original pen and ink drawings for the first edition of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD IN OZ from 1900!
Originally drawn for Chapter 19, "Attacked by the Fighting Trees," the illustration depicting the Scarecrow clutched in a 'woodsy' catch was colored during the printing process, and appeared as a full color plate drawing opposite page 220.
Drawings by Denslow from THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ have scarcely been discovered in private hands, which makes this unexpected discovery a particularly exciting find.
When asked about the drawing's provenance, the gentleman has few details, other than the memory it had been something the family, which hailed from the West Virginia area, had held onto for decades under the folklore that it might be something 'important.' His mother had been married to a prominent photographer in the 1920s, and his father lived in New York City in the same era, but nothing to concretely tie the illustration to its legendary past.
Denslow's original artwork for THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was among the lots offered in Chicago storage unit sales in the 1910s, after the artist failed to pay rent. A large collection of original pen and ink drawings for the book were later gifted to the New York Public Library in April, 1926 by noted book collector, Harry Goldsmith. A smaller cache of drawings turned up for sale at a Southern California bookseller in the 1960s, and in the decades since, scattered individual drawings have turned up at major auction houses. But as of 2021, only about one third of Denslow's total works for the classic book are confirmed to survive.
As for the future of this drawing rediscovered in Texas: now armed with the knowledge of its value and importance, the owner will, at last, gift it a proper framing (and a proper insurance policy). It will also remain in the family for future generations to discover and enjoy.
Hopefully, the uncovering will also inspire others to keep looking for long hidden treasures.
After all, as this gentleman told me, 'you never know what might turn up in a closet after 121 years!'
Neill or Not?
As originally printed in 1904, two John R. Neill illustrations for The Marvelous Land of Oz
On the quest to uncover the surviving original artwork drawn for the Oz book series, The Marvelous Land of Oz remains tantalizing. Published four years after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this first Oz sequel was an enormous success in 1904. Surviving photographs pasted in L. Frank Baum’s personal family scrapbooks reveal not only the extensive advertising blitz that surrounded the book’s release, but that the original pen and ink artwork drawn by John R. Neill to generate the illustrations in the book were showcased in elaborate promotional displays in department store windows.
The handful of surviving artworks from Land are also some of the earliest found in private collections. Oz author, Jack Snow was one of the first major collectors to seek out original illustration boards from the Oz books, which hitherto had mostly been considered just utilitarian parts of the printing process.
But faced with financial hardship, Snow sold the bulk of his Oz collection to rare book dealer Howard S. Mott, who in quick turn re-sold three pieces to Columbia University in 1955. In an earlier blog, The Lost Art of Oz examines one of these illustration boards in the Columbia archives that is an anomaly: an original pen and ink drawing that correlates to a drawing in The Marvelous Land of Oz, but that is resized and eliminates the central character of the Wogglebug from the illustration.
A recent discovery at the University of Virginia offered a similarly intriguing variant. Described in the school’s library catalogue as an original pen and ink drawing by John R. Neill, published with the caption "The Wood Steed Gave One Final Leap,” a xeroxed file copy provided by the library staff revealed some eyebrow-raising irregularities. The illustration itself is cut - nearly by a third- and more quizzically, the legs of the Sawhorse crudely redrawn to be thicker than in the drawing as it appears in the book.
Could this, indeed, be John R. Neill’s original pen and ink board from 1904? If so, why the alterations? And would Neill himself have been the one making the changes to his own work?
Luckily, a spirited investigation by Penny White, reference librarian at UVA, along with insightful findings by the incomparable ‘Royal Researcher of Oz,” Michael Patrick Hearn provides us with some answers - not only about the drawing at UVA, but as it turns out, also the mystery illustration at Columbia.
In 1918, George Matthew Adams Service, a prominent newspaper syndicate offered a serialization of The Marvelous Land of Oz in weekly installments, under the title “The Wonderful Stories of Oz.” Archival images of newspaper sheets reveal that both variant drawings were, in fact, reprinted in the Adams Service feature.
Taking into account the needs and specifications of recreating an image on a newspaper page, alterations, like the truncations made to the original "The Wood Steed Gave One Final Leap illustration,” begin to make sense. To a lesser degree too, it’s easy to imagine why certain details, like the legs of the sawhorse, might be changed to be more visible when printed as a smaller image.
But if the mystery about ‘what’ the modified illustrations were intended for was finally solved, other questions remained. Were these revised drawings Neill’s original artwork, and would he really have done such modifications himself?
As it turns out, in both instances, the answer is likely no.
Closer examination (and scanning) of the drawing at UVA reveals that the image in their library is, in all probability, a modified printer’s proof, with the revised horse legs drawn over corrective paint.
Oftentimes, proofs are also retouched by hand with dark ink, so it’s not unusual for them to be mistakenly identified and catalogued as an original pen and ink drawing, even by experienced researchers.
In contrast, the drawing at Columbia is, indeed, an actual pen and ink drawing, but when we take into account the obstacle of resizing the original illustration in the book from horizontal to square, it seems the illustration may have simply been redrawn to fit the specifications for newsprint.
As for Neill potentially drawing the revised illustration himself, while the image is a close copy, Neill’s grand-daugther, Jory Mason, herself an accomplished artist, is quick to point out, “In my opinion, the illustration does not look like his line work.’ The revision also lack’s Neill’s signature from the original - likely another tell-tale sign it was instead the work of a skilled in-house artist emulating Neill’s style.
But perhaps most persuasively, there is no record, either in the publisher’s files or Neill’s family papers of Neill ever having been paid to modify any of his illustrations for the Oz book series - either by redrawing them (or in the instance of other found works - by embellishing pen and ink drawings with watercolor to make them more suitable for advertising re-purpose). Lest we forget, for much of Neill’s career, illustrating the Oz books was simply ‘a gig’ - one of many that the industrious Neill took on each month in his career as a working illustrator. It’s unlikely he would have taken on the extra assignment without further compensation. Neill, after all, had no idea in 1904 or 1918 of what “Oz” would eventually come to mean as an enduring, decades long American phenom...
Only in 1941 - decades later - did Neill write, “I’m beginning, after about 40 years,” to realize there is more to this Oz stuff than I thought.” As it would happen, the line was written to Jack Snow, who would end up adding a faux drawing to his own collection, perhaps one of the first prized as a Neill original.
Special thanks to Michael Patrick Hearn, Jory Mason, Penny White, and the University of Virginia for their expertise.
The following story was first published in the Spring 2020 edition of The Baum Bugle, the journal of the International Wizard of Oz Club. If you aren't yet a member, what are you waiting for?
When I launched the “Lost Art of Oz” project in the fall of 2018, my first goal was to make a list of all the original illustrations known to survive. That continuing journey began with a “deep dive” through auction brochures, sales records, and library catalogues. Even more instrumental were the remembrances and expertise of keen collectors. Over the years, many had informally made notes about the current whereabouts of that art, much of it drawn over a century ago by master illustrators John R. Neill and W.W. Denslow.
The search quickly revealed that most of the surviving original Oz drawings by Neill have one of two origins: they are either those saved through the preservation efforts of collectors, Fred Meyer, Lucy Hart, Irene Fisher, and most significantly Dick Martin in the late 1950s, or they are the last of the drawings still owned by publisher Reilly & Lee when the firm was sold to the Henry Regnery Company in 1959. This second group was sold by Peter Glassman of Books of Wonder in the early 1980s, and all the art has been subject to a myriad of changing hands in the succeeding decades.
As a result, the discovery of a major “new” piece—its survival hitherto unknown—always raises excitement about the possibility of future discoveries.
One such treasure was found in 2016 by collector and Oz Enthusiast blogger, Bill Campbell. Bill is an artist and a lifelong Oz fan. His focus has always been on collecting the original books and artwork from the series.
As Bill remembers:
“I have a general habit, after arriving home from work, of browsing through eBay and looking at searches related to my various Oz interests. On this occasion, I had barely started looking when an illustration popped up at an attractive ‘Buy it Now’ price. I recognized it immediately as a double page spread of Scraps and the Scarecrow drawn by John R. Neill for The Patchwork Girl of Oz. After a moment of being a bit stunned to see it, I realized I’d have to act quickly. It appeared to have just been listed, and I knew it wouldn’t be available for long!
“My partner, Irwin, was upstairs. With a shout of, ‘We’re spending money!’ I ran up with the iPad to show him the drawing. His response was simply, ‘Make sure it’s what you think it is!’
After a quick second look, I crossed my fingers and made the purchase.
It was sold by an older gentleman somewhere on the east coast, possibly Rhode Island. I ended up speaking to him over the phone to arrange shipping, but I could learn nothing more about where the drawing had come from. Apparently, he didn’t have any others. He didn’t seem to be an Oz collector.
When the piece arrived a week or so later, it was immediately obvious that it was the real deal. As always, it was a joy taking in Neill’s artistry. Though it was printed in color in the book, the original drawing is crafted solely in pen and ink. The scale of Neill’s Oz work is very impressive, with the drawing measuring a good 13” tall by 22” wide. This increase in size over the printed version in the book makes the artist’s pen work and graceful line all the more impressive. Neill’s artwork in the Oz series was a major part of why I fell in love with the books as a child, and it’s always a thrill to see an original example. Another lucky stroke: Neill drew many of his early double paged drawings on separate boards, but for whatever reason, he opted here to draw the Scarecrow and Scraps together. Truly an inseparable duo!
The board also had a strong odor of old cigarette smoke. But after allowing it to air out for another week or two, it went to the framer. It has been beloved on our wall ever since.”
Much of the original Neill artwork for The Patchwork Girl of Oz is known to survive, yet many of the most prominent illustrations are still at large. The discovery of such a significant piece spurs the imagination: who might have had it for the past 100 years? Could a former employee of Reilly & Lee have brought it home? Did a store clerk keep it from a window display? We may never solve the mystery, but we can dream that more Oz treasures are out there just waiting to be found.
Brady Schwind is a writer, director, and Oz Enthusiast on a mission to definitively catalogue the existing original artwork from the famed "Famous Forty" Oz books.