REVISITING MARTIN AND DENSLOW AT THE KERLAN
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. The Lost Art of Oz founder, Brady Schwind has 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 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).