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Brian Wildsmith - Author

About the 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 by Brian Wildsmith

Other books by Brian Wildsmith

Daisy

Daisy

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 09/05/2019

Bear's Adventure

Bear's Adventure

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 09/05/2019

The Easter Story

The Easter Story

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/03/2019

The story of Easter is told here through the eyes of the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem. This beautiful and sensitive retelling from Brian Wildsmith, one of our most acclaimed children's authors of the 20th century, is perfect for sharing with children. It is presented in a beautiful gift format with stunning foil design on a clothbound hardback cover.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/09/2018

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . . The perfect gift for every day of Christmas, Brian Wildsmith takes you on an enchanting journey through The Twelve Days of Christmas. This illustrated version of a Christmas classic from one of our most internationally acclaimed picture-book writers and artists deserves a spot under every Christmas tree. Beautifully presented in a cloth-bound special edition, this is perfect for sharing during the festive season. Creates a lovely set with A Christmas Story.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/09/2018

Once, a long time ago, in a town called Nazareth, a little donkey was born. Brian Wildsmith retells the wonderful Christmas story through the eyes of a little girl as she travels to Bethlehem. It is their perspective on the Nativity story that gives the book such an intimate, innocent, and child-centred appeal. This classic story from one of our most internationally acclaimed picture-book writers and artists has deservedly become an enduring favourite with children at Christmas time. Now beautifully presented in a cloth-bound special edition, ideal for sharing during the festive season. Perfect as a set with The Twelve Days of Christmas.

A Christmas Story with Nativity Set

A Christmas Story with Nativity Set

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/10/2013

'Once, a long time ago, in a town called Nazareth, a little donkey was born.' As the wonderful events of the Nativity unfold, Brian Wildsmith tells of the journey of a little girl and a donkey to Bethlehem. It is their perspective on the Christmas story that gives the book such an intimate, innocent, and child-centred appeal. This classic story from one of our most internationally acclaimed picture-book writers and artists has deservedly become an enduring favourite with children at Christmas time. Now presented as a beautiful gift edition which includes a nativity scene to make and display in your home during the festive season.

Brian Wildsmith's Animal Gallery

Brian Wildsmith's Animal Gallery

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/03/2010

This beautiful book will delight young animal lovers. Through evocative paintings, children are brought face to face with wildlife from around the world. Brian Wildsmith has captured the essence of each animal - from the playfulness of otters to a noisy gathering of parrots. His panoramic pictures also give a real sense of the animals' habitats-from a sun-soaked plain where elephants roam to icy Antarctica where penguins huddle together. Collective nouns - some familiar, others wonderfully surprising - are used to describe each group of animals. This is a book that will inspire a love of nature and a respect for animals from the earliest age.

Brian Wildsmith's Amazing Animal Alphabet Book

Brian Wildsmith's Amazing Animal Alphabet Book

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 19/11/2009

Zoo Animals

Zoo Animals

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Board book Release Date: 13/08/2009

Brian Wildsmith's Farm Animals

Brian Wildsmith's Farm Animals

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Board book Release Date: 26/03/2009

Brian Wildsmith's Favourite Nursery Rhymes

Brian Wildsmith's Favourite Nursery Rhymes

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 05/03/2009

Find out what happens to the unfortunate Humpty Dumpty, ride with a fine lady to Banbury Cross, watch a cow jump over the moon, listen to Old King Cole's fiddlers, and march with the Duke of York in this wonderful collection of nursery rhymes. Brian Wildsmith has chosen over eighty best-loved rhymes that are full of charm and rhythm, and has illustrated them with great exuberance and imagination. Nursery rhymes are delight to share from one generation to the next and this beautiful book is sure to be enjoyed by young and old alike.

The Easter Story

The Easter Story

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/02/2008

'Once, a long time ago, a little donkey was brought to Jesus.' The story of Easter is told here through the eyes of the donkey that carried Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. He watches the Last Supper, he sees Jesus brought before Pontius Pilate, he is there when Jesus is crucified, and he witnesses the joy of the resurrection. Every year, as these events are remembered, this beautiful retelling from Brian Wildsmith is a lovely book to share with children. Brian Wildsmith is one of our most internationally acclaimed picture-book writers and artists. This classic Easter retelling now has a stunning new cover design to appeal to a whole new generation of young Wildsmith fans.

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 04/10/2007

'Once, a long time ago, in a town called Nazareth, a little donkey was born.' As the wonderful events of the Nativity unfold, Brian Wildsmith tells of the journey of a little girl and a donkey to Bethlehem. It is their perspective on the Christmas story that gives the book such an intimate, innocent and child-centred appeal. This classic story from one of our most internationally acclaimed picture-book writers and artists has deservedly become an enduring favourite with children at Christmas time. Now, a stunning new cover design will delight a whole new generation of young Wildsmith fans.

The Hare and the Tortoise

The Hare and the Tortoise

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 07/06/2007

'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 is the hare's boastfulness that should make us question the likely outcome of the race? The simple message of this La Fontaine fable - that modesty and perseverance will always be rewarded - is gloriously told in this lovely picture book from Brian Wildsmith, an internationally acclaimed writer and artist for children. His simple words and sumptuous illustrations bring a freshness to this timeless fable and the stunning new cover design and imaginative interior typography will delight a whole new generation of young Wildsmith fans.

Jungle Party

Jungle Party

Author: Brian Wildsmith Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 06/03/2006

Python is hungry, and, knowing this, all the other animals are keeping out of his way. So wily Python comes up with a cunning scheme. He invites them all to a party, promising he will be good. The animals can't resist, and join in enthusiastically when he suggests they all perform their party tricks. Python saves his trick for last - and if it hadn't been for Elephant happening to pass by, he might have had the last laugh...What Python's trick is, and how the animals were deceived by him, is told with wit and zest by one of our greatest picture book storytellers.

Author Info

Author's Website

https://brianwildsmith.com/

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