Biography

Robert Lawson Biography

Robert Lawson – American author and illustrator, 1892-1957

Robert Lawson
Robert Lawson

American author and illustrator, 1892-1957. One of the most prolific and notable figures in Ameri­can children’s literature during the first half of the twen­tieth century, Robert Lawson achieved distinction both as an illustrator and as an author, winning the Caldecott Medal in 1941 for They Were Strong and Good, a picture­book tribute to his forebears, and the Newbery Medal in 1945 for Rabbit Hill, the story of an animal community and its relationship to the New Folks who come to the neighborhood.

This feat, which no one has as yet dupli­cated, makes his work particularly significant in the context of American culture as well as in the history of publishing. Lawson’s contributions ranged from endpa­pers for T. H. White’s Sword in the Stone (1939) to illus­trations for Ginn’s Mathematics for Success (1952).

By 1957, when the Great Wheel was published posthumous­ly, he had written and illustrated twenty books and illus­trated forty-six for other authors, in addition to the considerable number of drawings and etchings pub­lished before his success as a writer and illustrator for children.

They Were Strong And Good Robert Lawson
They Were Strong And Good, Robert Lawson. First edition, 1940

Born in New York, Lawson grew up in New Jersey, graduated from art school in 1914 at the beginning of World War I, and worked as a freelance artist for several popular magazines, including Harper’s Weekly and, after the war, Delineator and Designer. In 1917-18 he served in France with the 40th Engineers, Camouflage Section. In 1922, he married artist Marie Abrams, and in 1923, they moved to Westport, Connecticut, where they designed Christmas cards—one a day for three years—to pay off the mortgage.

Like Dr. Seuss, Lawson worked exten­sively as a commercial artist. Then his collaboration with Munro Leaf for The Story of Ferdinand (1936), although not his first venture into children’s books, brought him national and ultimately international rec­ognition. In 1939, with Ben and Me, the story of Ben­jamin Franklin as told by the irreverent mouse Amos, he became a writer as well as an illustrator.

Three more similarly iconoclastic historical fantasies followed, each featuring a talkative pet who presented an insider’s view of its famous owner: I Discover Columbus (1941), Mr. Revere and I (1953), and Captain Kidd’s Cat (1956). Of these three, Revere, closest in comic tone to Ben and Me, is probably the most successful, with the fewest unfortu­nate stereotypes.

As a writer, Lawson was essentially a raconteur, creat­ing characters through dialogue rather than description. As an illustrator, he was, as critics have remarked, a tra­ditionalist in composition and style. The demands of commercial art and his prize-winning work as an etcher made him a master of line—fluid and expressive— emphasizing his talent for visual storytelling character­istic of American art and attuned to American aesthetic sensibilities.

He was so clearly of his times that he cap­tured both its strengths and its weaknesses. His love of his country and its heroes is contagious, but his depic­tions of women and minorities are cliches. But then, most of his human characters were singularly one ­dimensional, in contrast to such unforgettable animal creations as Ferdinand, perhaps the first flower child, and the varied denizens of Rabbit Hill, where there was indeed “enough for all.”

M.M.B.

Source: Children’s Books and their Creators, Anita Silvey.


Robert Lawson Bibliography

  • Chester, George Randolph, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Wonderful Adventures of Little Prince Toofat. New York: James A. McCann, 1922.
  • Mason, Arthur, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Wee Men of Ballywooden. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1930; New York: Viking Press, 1952.
  • Bianco, Margery Williams, Robert Lawson (illustrator). “The House That Grew Small”. St. Nicholas Magazine 58 (September 1931): 764–66, 782–83.
  • Mason, Arthur, Robert Lawson (illustrator). From the Horn of the Moon. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1931. Excerpted as “Moving of the Bog”, St. Nicholas Magazine 58 (July 1931): 644–47, 667–70.
  • Mason, Arthur, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Roving Lobster. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1931.
  • Untermeyer, Louis, Robert Lawson (illustrator). “The Donkey of God”. St. Nicholas Magazine 59 (December 1931): 59–61, 105–108.
  • Ring, Barbara, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Peik. Translated by Lorence Munson Woodside. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1932.
  • Young, Ella, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Unicorn with Silver Shoes. New York: Longmans, Green, 1932.
  • Bianco, Margery Williams, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Hurdy-Gurdy Man. New York: Oxford University Press, 1933.
  • Marquand, John P., Robert Lawson (illustrator). Haven’s End. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1933.
  • Haines, William Wister, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Slim. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1934.
  • Tarn, William Woodthorpe, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Treasure of the Isle of Mist. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1934. also Junior Literary Guild
  • Coatsworth, Elizabeth, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Golden Horseshoe. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1935.
  • Sterne, Emma Gelders, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Drums of Monmouth. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1935.
  • Bates, Helen Dixon, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Betsy Ross. New York: Whittlesey House and McGraw-Hill, 1936.
  • Bates, Helen Dixon, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Francis Scott Key. New York: Whittlesey House and McGraw-Hill, 1936.
  • Gale, Elizabeth, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Seven Beads of Wampum. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1936. also Junior Literary Guild
  • Glenn, Mabelle, et al., eds., Robert Lawson (illustrator). Tunes and Harmonies. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1936.
  • Leaf, Munro, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Story of Ferdinand. New York: Viking Press, 1936.
  • Barnes, Ruth A., ed., Robert Lawson (illustrator). I Hear America Singing: An Anthology of Folk Poetry. Chicago: John C. Winston Co. and the Junior Literary Guild, 1937.
  • Bowie, Walter Russell, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Story of Jesus for Young People. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937.
  • Brewton, John E., Robert Lawson (illustrator). Under the Tent of the Sky: A Collection of Poems about Animals Large and Small. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1937.
  • Cormack, Maribelle, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Wind of the Vikings: A Tale of the Orkney Isles. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1937.
  • Fish, Helen Dean, ed., Robert Lawson (illustrator). Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Nursery Rhymes of Yesterday Recalled for Children of To-Day. New York: Frederick. A. Stokes, 1937.
  • Kissin, Rita, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Pete the Pelican. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1937. NOT illustrated by Lawson – Book illustrated by Joel Stolper
  • MacDonald, Rose Mortimer Ellzey. Nelly Custis Daughter of Mount Vernon. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1937. Lawson End Pages only
  • Rosmer, Jean, Robert Lawson (illustrator). In Secret Service: A Mystery Story of Napoleon’s Court. Translated by Virginia Olcott. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1937.
  • Sterne, Emma Gelders, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Miranda Is a Princess: A Story of Old Spain. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1937.
  • Stratton, Clarence, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Swords and Statues: A Tale of Sixteenth Century Italy. New York: John C. Winston Co. and the Junior Literary Guild, 1937.
  • Twain, Mark, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Prince and the Pauper. Chicago: John C. Winston Co., 1937.
  • Atwater, Richard, and Florence Atwater, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1938.
  • Dickens, Charles, Robert Lawson (illustrator). A Tale of Two Cities. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1938. Possible Phantom Title. No copies found and no copyright entry found. **
  • Farjeon, Eleanor, Robert Lawson (illustrator). One Foot in Fairyland. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1938.
  • Haines, William Wister, Robert Lawson (illustrator). High Tension. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1938.
  • Leaf, Munro, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Wee Gillis. New York: Viking Press, 1938.
  • Lawson, Robert. Ben and Me. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1939.
  • Bunyan, John, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Pilgrim’s Progress. Text revised by Mary Godolphin. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1939.
  • White, T. H., Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Sword in the Stone. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1939.
  • Lawson, Robert. Just for Fun: A Collection of Stories and Verses. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1940.
  • Lawson, Robert. They Were Strong and Good. New York: Viking Press, 1940.
  • Brewton, John E, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Gaily We Parade: A Collection of Poems about People, Here, There and Everywhere. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1940.
  • Lawson, Robert. I Discover Columbus. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1941.
  • Leaf, Munro, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Aesop’s Fables. New York: Heritage Press, 1941.
  • Leaf, Munro, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Story of Simpson and Sampson. New York: Viking Press, 1941.
  • C. S. Forester, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Poo-Poo and the Dragons. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1942.
  • Gray, Elizabeth Janet, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Adam of the Road. New York: Viking Press, 1942.
  • Lang, Andrew, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Prince Prigio. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1942.
  • Stephens, James, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Crock of Gold. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1942.
  • Lawson, Robert. Watchwords of Liberty. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1943.
  • Teal, Val, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Little Woman Wanted Noise. New York: Rand McNally, 1943; rev. ed., 1967.
  • The Woman’s Club of Westport. The Connecticut Cookbook. Westport, Connecticut: Westport Women’s Club, 1943, Paperback w/ wire spine, with one or two illustrations by Robert Lawson (p.28, p.160?). I question the illustration at page 160.
  • Lawson, Robert. Country Colic. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1944.
  • Lawson, Robert. Rabbit Hill. New York: Viking Press, 1944. also Junior Literary Guild
  • Lawson, Robert. Mr. Wilmer. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1945.
  • Hall, William, Robert Lawson (illustrator). The Shoelace Robin. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1945.
  • Robinson, Tom, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Greylock and the Robins. New York: Viking Press and fthe Junior Literary Guild, 1946.
  • Lawson, Robert. At That Time. New York: Viking Press, 1947.
  • Lawson, Robert. Mr. Twigg’s Mistake. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1947.
  • Lawson, Robert. Robbut: A Tale of Tails. New York: Viking Press, 1948.
  • Lawson, Robert. Dick Whittington and His Cat. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1949.
  • Lawson, Robert. The Fabulous Flight. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1949.
  • Lawson, Robert. Smeller Martin. New York: Viking Press, 1950.
  • Neilson, Frances F., and Winthrop Neilson, Robert Lawson (illustrator). Benjamin Franklin. Reader in Real People Series. New York: Row, Peterson, 1950.
  • Lawson, Robert. McWhinney’s Jaunt. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1951.
  • Lawson, Robert. Edward, Hoppy and Joe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.
  • Potter, Mary A., et al., Robert Lawson (illustrator). Mathematics for Success. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1952.
  • Lawson, Robert. Mr. Revere and I. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1953.
  • Lawson, Robert. The Tough Winter. New York: Viking Press, 1954. also Junior Literary Guild
  • Lawson, Robert. Captain Kidd’s Cat. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1956.
  • Lawson, Robert. The Great Wheel. New York: Viking Press, 1957.
  • Yolen, Jane. Spaceships & Spells: A collection of new fantasy and science-fiction stories. New York: Harper & Row, (1987) Contains Robert Lawson Short Story “The Silver Leopard”.

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