Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor (August 28, 1915-June 18, 2008) is one of America's most fascinating and beloved illustrators. Her works celebrated her Victorian-era lifestyle, the holidays, family and her love for children. Her first story, Pumpkin Moonshine, originally written as a Christmas present for her niece, was published in 1938. Over her lifetime, Tasha illustrations graced the pages of nearly 100 books, including such renowned classics as Mother Goose (1944); Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen (1945); Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas (1962); Frances H. Burnett's Secret Garden (1962) and Little Princess (1963); and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1969).

Tasha Tudor received praise and many honors for her soft watercolor and ink illustrations that evoked the sentimentality of a bygone era, often being compared to British illustrator Kate Greenaway. Two of her books were named Caldecott Honor Books: Mother Goose in 1945 and 1 is One in 1957. Tasha's favorite of all her books was Corgiville Fair, one of several she wrote about the Welsh corgi dogs she kept as pets, sometimes 13 or 14 at once. Many of her books are printed in foreign languages and distributed around the world. She also created thousands of Christmas cards, Advent calendars, valentines, posters, and other works throughout her illustrious 70-year career.

Born Starling Burgess, Tasha legally changed both her names to Tasha Tudor. A calico-clad throwback, she went barefoot, spun flax into linen for her own clothing, raised Nubian goats for their milk, made her own tea and lived out her days in a replica of a late 18th-century New England farmhouse, replete with antique utensils and tiny windows.

Books, videotapes, magazine articles and television shows illuminated her gardening and housekeeping ideas.

She was born in Boston to well-respected parents. Her mother, Rosamond Tudor, was a portrait painter, and her father, William Starling Burgess, was a yacht and airplane designer who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller. She was originally nicknamed "Natasha" by her father, after Tolstoy's heroine in War and Peace. This was shortened to Tasha. After her parents divorced when she was 9, she adopted her mother's last name. Tasha quit school after eighth grade, married twice and raised her children, part of the time as a single mother. Royalties from her illustrated edition of Mother Goose helped her buy a rambling 17-room Webster, New Hampshire farmhouse, where the family lived with no television, no radio, and no electricity, only oil lamps.

As a young child, Tudor was exposed to the illustrations of Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, and Beatrix Potter. Her decision to become an illustrator came when her mother gave her a copy of The Vicar of Wakefield, illustrated by Hugh Thompson. Tasha drew her life around her, her country home, her children, the animals-both wild and domestic-and the plants and vegetation outside her door.

Tasha's style resembled her 19th century lifestyle. Her studio was her kitchen table where she sat, balancing her work in her lap. In the words of Tasha Tudor herself, "Motivation was the wolf at the door and four small children to raise and educate. I draw almost entirely from my surroundings-the children are either mine or my grandchildren and the animals are all the animals I own or have had the privilege of caring for. Everyone who likes my illustrations says, 'Oh, you must be so enthralled with your creativity.' That's nonsense. I'm a commercial artist, and I've done my books because I needed to earn my living."

In 1972, Tasha sold the old New Hampshire farm and moved near her son Seth in Marlboro, Vermont, where he built her a new 'old house' of her own design, completely by hand, unreachable by car. Her Vermont home, though only 30 years old, feels as though it was built in the 1830's. While her 'new' house had electricity, it did not have running water. Tasha died in 2008. She lived to the ripe old age of 92. In addition to her son Seth, Tasha is survived by her daughters Bethany Tudor and Efner Tudor Holmes; son Thomas; eight grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and her half-sister Ann. The family of Tasha Tudor continues her legacy to this day.

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Tasha Tudor