Brian Wildsmith - Author Picture

Brian Wildsmith - Author

Brian Wildsmith died on 31 August 2016 aged 86 in Grasse, France. He won himself a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest living children's illustrators.

He was born on 22nd January 1930 and raised in a small mining village near Sheffield. He won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art, London where he studied for three years. He later taught maths at the Royal Military School of Music but gave it up so that he could pursue his passion for painting.

Wildsmith began working with Oxford University Press in the late 1950s when children’s publisher, Mabel George, commissioned him to illustrate 12 colour plates for Tales from the Arabian Nights. This was followed by ABC, published in 1961, which won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Wildsmith’s "fruitful and creative" collaboration with OUP continued after George's retirement in 1974 with the appointment of Ron Heapy as publisher, a role which he held for more than 20 years. During this period Wildsmith produced some of his best-loved and best-known titles, including A Christmas Story and Cat on the Mat.

Since 2007 – the year that marked the centenary of children’s publishing at OUP – a number of Wildsmith’s books have been brought back into print, including his illustrated anthology of nursery rhymes, originally published in 1964, and his vivid imagining of The Twelve Days of Christmas, which first appeared in 1972. During the course of his long-standing association with OUP, Wildsmith wrote and illustrated more than 80 books.

A spokesperson for OUP said of Wildsmith: "He was an immensely thoughtful, compassionate, and perceptive man and these qualities touched all those at Oxford University Press who had the privilege to work with him over the years."

Wildsmith, who moved to France with his family in 1971, lost his wife, Aurélie, in 2015. He is survived by his four children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Brian Wildsmith on his illustrations:

‘Picture books give an opportunity for a marriage between painting and illustrating . . . I believe that beautiful picture books of the right kind are vitally important in subconsciously forming a child’s appreciation, which will bear fruit in later life.’

Tributes to Brian Wildsmith:

Author Michael Rosen (Children’s Laureate 2007-2009) said of Wildsmith: "Floods of colour exploding across the pages with a name to match: Wildsmith. He was a wild smith. I remember feeling envious: why hadn’t I had books as wild and lush as these?"

Picture-book maker, Catherine Rayner, (Kate Greenaway Medal winner 2009) has also long been inspired by Wildsmith's work. She said: "The balance he managed to create between the character in a storybook and the real creature is perfect. His illustrations provide a lively eyeful of activity and colour along with imaginative composition, which I find truly amazing."

‘Brian Wildsmith was one of the most original and influential picture book makers in the world, particularly in his use of colour and space.’ Anthony Browne, Children’s Laureate 2009-2011

Korky Paul on Brian Wildsmith:

'Brian Wildsmith's work came out in the 1960s and he changed picture books. It was revolutionary stuff. One of his best books is The Hare and the Tortoise. He uses his own colours. He plays with scale, and his animals have characters: roosters strut their stuff, chickens are always eating, cats always sleeping.

'What I like about his work is his wonderful use of white space; there are raggedy edges and extraordinary detail. He uses a mixture of media: watercolour, wash, then he works on top with chalk or pen. There is a lot of movement there.

'My work is more spiky, but I love trying to create a fantasy world and to stylise it. Children's books allow artists of all kinds to explore their own vision, how they see the world, and that's what Wildsmith achieves so well. Exposing children to that teaches them that there are all sorts of ways of viewing the world.' (The Guardian)

Featured Books, with extracts, by Brian Wildsmith

Cat on the Mat and Friends
Brian Wildsmith
A bumper picture book made up of four best-selling classic stories by this award winning illustrator. The simplicity of Brian Wildsmith's illustrations and the jokes that both the pictures and the stories tell make this a delight for young readers.......
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: Baby and Toddler | 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 12/04/2011
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A Christmas Journey
Brian Wildsmith
The story of the Nativity is beautifully captured in Brian Wildsmith's illustrations which are wholly accessible to a contemporary audience while also being firmly set in the past. Full of awe and wonder, the story of Mary and Joseph's journey...
Lovereading Price: £4.79 - Saving £1.20 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 09/09/2010
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Brian Wildsmith's Animal Gallery
Brian Wildsmith
In this stunning visual introduction to...
Lovereading Price: £6.39 - Saving £1.60 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 01/03/2010
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Brian Wildsmith's Favourite Nursery Rhymes
Brian Wildsmith
Age 3+. Prize-winning illustrator Brian Wildsmith's distinctive illustration bring this collection of best-loved nursery rhymes beautifully to life. There's a gorgeously fat cow jumping over the moon while the cat fiddles below, a delightfully merry King Cole relishing his fiddlers...
Lovereading Price: £8.79 - Saving £2.20 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 05/03/2009
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Brian Wildsmith's Favourite Fables
Brian Wildsmith
A lovely collection of five well-loved fables for parents and children to share simply retold and sumptuously illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, the internationally acclaimed picture-book writer and artist. We meet a boastful hare as he challenges a slow-and-steady tortoise to...
Lovereading Price: £11.99 - Saving £3.00 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 02/10/2008
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Brian Wildsmith's Animal Gallery
Brian Wildsmith

Lovereading Price: £8.79 - Saving £2.20 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Hardback | Released 04/09/2008
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The Miller, the Boy and the Donkey
Brian Wildsmith
A timeless fable made immediate and fresh for the youngest readers. Its simple message is best to make your own decisions and not be swayed by conflicting advice is gloriously told in this lovely picture book from Brian Wildsmith, an...
Lovereading Price: £4.79 - Saving £1.20 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 03/01/2008
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The Rich Man and the Shoemaker
Brian Wildsmith
A happy shoemaker - who sings beautifully while he works - is stopping his wealthy but miserable neighbour from sleeping. So the rich man hatches a plan to put an end to the shoemaker's sunny disposition. But how can a...
Lovereading Price: £4.79 - Saving £1.20 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 03/01/2008
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The Lion and the Rat
Brian Wildsmith
The simple messages of this La Fontaine fable - that acts of kindness will always be returned and that even the strongest and mightiest sometimes need the help of the smallest and weakest - are gloriously told in this lovely...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 07/06/2007
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The North Wind and the Sun
Brian Wildsmith
The North Wind blew with all his might, but it was no use. The North Wind is sure that he is powerful enough to blow the cloak from the shoulders of a passing horseman. But will his furious strength be...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 07/06/2007
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The Hare and the Tortoise
Brian Wildsmith
'I am sure to win, but we will race if you like.' So laughs the hare when a slow tortoise challenges him to run all the way to the old cart. His speed is never in doubt but perhaps it...
Lovereading Price: £5.59 - Saving £1.40 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 07/06/2007
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Cat on the Mat
Brian Wildsmith
Wildsmith's hallmark of dazzlingly colourful illustrations coupled with the briefest of text that's repeated throughout this picture book has plenty of humour and children will pore over each illustration and each time will find something new within them.
Lovereading Price: £3.19 - Saving £0.80 (20%) Featured in: 3+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 29/04/1982
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Author Info

Author's Website

brianwildsmith.com/

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