The magical world of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1888–1960)
We have always loved this artist’s illustrations but it was only recently, when we stumbled upon the iconic image of ‘Bridget Cuddled up Against a Fat Baby Kookaburra’, that the penny dropped and we realised that, oh wow – Ida Rentoul Outhwaite is Australian!
Fairy Islands, Elves_and_Fairies –1916 by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Fairies and Koalas, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
The Waterfall Fairy, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Castaway, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
The Witch, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Bridget the Fairy Beauty, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
The Storm, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Ida’s beautiful depictions of dainty sprites, bush fairies and earthy, brave witches are whimsically beautiful and expressive.
The reigning queen of fairyland and one of the most delightful, sought-after artists of her time, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite’s ‘now quite valuable’ illustrated books, postcards, tableware and ephemera is coveted widely within the collecting world. Her book, Fairyland, first published in 1926, features a large swathe of her exquisite illustrations and we dream of buying one of the first editions of this tome for the extra specialness.
As early as 1904, Ida’s book Mollie’s Bunyip turned the more recognised European style of ‘fairy genre art’ on its head with her thoughtful Australian bush aesthetic and pared down pen and ink style. She published Australian Songs for Young and Old in 1907, illustrated Tarella Quin’s Gum Tree Brownie in 1907 and The Lady of The Blue Beads in 1908, written by her sister.
Gaining popularity and extending on her artistic practice and unique perspective, Ida’s successful European exhibition in 1920 established her as a noted artist of the early 20th century (she created around the same time as the ‘now more famous’ May Gibbs whose Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie books were first published in 1918).
Ida’s beautiful depictions of dainty sprites, bush fairies and earthy, brave witches (she apparently used her four children frequently as her models which is just adorable) are whimsically beautiful and expressive. She couples these folkloric characters with gentle, kindred images of kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, native bats and other creatures of her Australia, all within a conjured landscape of iridescent moons, gracefully silhouetted tree boughs and calming waterways.
Ida’s art – with accompanying verses and stories by her sister, Annie R. Rentoul, and her husband, Grenbry Outhwaite – are timeless in their charm. Even with her strong artistic influences like Beardsley, Rackham, Dulac and Greenaways, the imagery remains staunchly unique, standing the test of time through her inventive layer of Australiana.
We hope these tender and piquant works spark your magic memories just as they did ours.