Margaret Winifred Tarrant
1888-1959

Margaret Tarrant was a prolific English illustrator that created posters, greeting cards, calendars, postcards and books for fifty years. She was most popular during the 1920’s and 1930’s for her romantic depiction of children, fairies and animals.

Margaret was born in Battersea, a suburb of south London in 1888. She was the only child of Percy Tarrant, the landscape painter, and his wife, Sarah Wyatt. Percy was a successful illustrator of magazines as well as books and greeting cards. His work was very influential in her life and he her encouraged her to take up illustration. As a child, Margaret would set up an ‘Exhibition Tent’ with sheets, pin up her art work and invite her parents inside for viewing.
Her first training was in the art department of Clapham High School, where she won several awards for drawing, then moving on to Clapham School of Art. She briefly trained as a teacher, but turned to watercolour painting and illustrating instead. After she had already been established as in illustrator, in 1918, 1921 and 1923, she studied at Heatherley’s School of Art, in London, and in 1935 at Guildford School of Art, where she met fellow artist Molly Brett.

Margaret began to work for publishers of Christmas cards at the age of eighteen and became a book illustrator at the age of twenty with the publication of Kingsley’s The Water Babies in 1908. The next year, she produced a series of paintings for postcards, published by C.W. Faulkner. She worked for many publishers, working almost exclusively with the Medici Society in her later years. For them, she collaborated with Marion St John Webb on a popular series of Flower Fairy books in the 1920’s.
Margaret’s work also became enormously popular for use on postcards, calendars, greeting cards and prints, many published by the Medici Society.
Her best-known painting, ‘The Piper of Dreams’ was reproduced and sold by the thousands.
Around 1930, Margaret’s parents were ill and needed her constant care. Her father’s deteriorated so badly that he need Margaret to finish off the details of his paintings. Both of her parents died in 1934 within months of each other.
During the 1920’s and 30’s, her religious paintings became very fashionable, the best-known being ‘He Prayeth Best’, depicting a shepherd boy kneeling on a hilltop. In an effort to collect material for her work, the Medici Society sent her on a trip to Palestine in 1936. After the death of her parents, this was exactly what Margaret needed. She was inspired and thrilled by what she saw there and enjoyed sketching and painting the landscape and its people.
During the Second World War, she contributed a few paintings to the war effort. In an attempt to save on petrol, Margaret could be seen riding around the village on an old bike. One day, she saw a neighbour’s child drawing on two shed doors, apparently due to the wartime paper shortage. She immediately hopped off her bicycle and joined in, covering the doors with a display of assorted animals and faeries, not forgetting to add a portrait of the child into the mix.

She has exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham. By 1953, her health and eyesight was deteriorating.
Within a few years, she gave up her house in Peaslake to live with her friend Molly Brett in Cornwall.
She died on 28 July 1959. She left her pictures to her friends and her estate to twelve charities.

She became friends with Cicely Mary Barker, another children’s book illustrator. Barker is best known for her fairy books and there is no doubt that Margaret was influenced by them. Barker also did religious paintings similar to Margaret’s.
Margaret worked in many media, including pen-and-ink, delicately collared watercolour, and graphite. Her silhouette type drawings were also very popular. As described by one mother whose child Margaret had sketched, she would start various sketches as the child moved around, sketching an arm here, a leg there, returning to the sketch as the child resumed that position again. She would then invent her composition, adapting the figures from her series of sketches.

Although she did not consider herself a ‘high-church person’, she certainly was expressing her religious beliefs in her paintings.

“ I began drawing at a very early age and have never lost my love of it nor my great interest in all artistic work.”

“ My love of nature has led me to the kind of work I now do—I want to lead people’s thoughts from nature’s wonder to nature’s Creator.”


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Fronts
Old Rhymes
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