5 most influential illustrators of all time

Tue 1 Dec 2020

Find out more about 5 of the most influential illustrators of all time.

Maurice Sendak

Born in Brooklyn in 1928, Maurice Sendak is often considered the leading children’s book creator of the twentieth century. Inspired by his father’s storytelling abilities, Sendak knew from an early age that he wanted to be an illustrator. Having worked for All-American Comics while still attending high school, Sendak broke into the children’s book industry after meeting an editor at Harper and Brothers. By the age of 34, he had written and illustrated seven books (the most famous being Where the Wild Things Are) and illustrated 43 others. Through his depictions of fantastic far-away lands that revealed a darker side to childhood than most contemporary children’s books, Sendak changed the whole concept of the modern picture book both aesthetically and psychologically.

Charles M. Schultz

Best known for the Peanuts comic strip, Charles M. Schultz pursued his passion from an early age by completing a correspondence cartoon course during high school. He began his career first as an art school instructor and then as a freelance cartoonist, creating the Peanuts strip in 1950. The cartoon – which attracted audiences with its perceptive observations, fleshed-out characters, and wry sense of humour – ran for 50 years, becoming the most syndicated, most translated, and most merchandized comic ever created. Schultz’s unique approach influenced numerous other artists, including Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), who said, “there's not a cartoonist who's done anything since 1960 who doesn't owe Schulz a tremendous debt.”

Quentin Blake

Born in Kent in 1932, Blake began drawing at an early age and began publishing cartoons in satirical magazine Punch while he was 16 and still at school. Best known for his collaboration with children’s author Roald Dahl, Blake has illustrated over 300 books, including 35 that he wrote himself. His freewheeling, chaotic style of drawing is immediately recognisable and continues to capture the imaginations of children worldwide.

Hayao Miyazaki

One of the world’s leading anime (film) and manga (comic) artists, Hayao Miyazaki has influenced numerous animators, filmmakers, and illustrators throughout his 40-year career, including Toy Story director John Lasseter, and Pan’s Labyrinth creator Guillermo del Toro. Combining Japanese anime with American animation styles, Miyazaki’s detailed fantastical landscapes, strong female lead characters, and thoughtful treatment of difficult subject matter have made him a cultural icon. His whimsical 2001 film Spirited Away remains the highest grossing movie of all time in Japan and was the first anime film to win an American Academy Award.

Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit on sign

A keen observer of nature, Beatrix Potter drew inspiration from the wildlife she encountered on childhood holidays to Scotland and the Lake District, developing her talents by studying botanical illustration at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Her 1901 best-selling children’s story The Tale of Peter Rabbit was inspired by a letter she wrote to the children of her former governess and was initially self-published after being rejected by seven publishers. Potter’s universe of charming animal characters that retained their true likeness influenced generations of artists and authors, including Maurice Sendak, Richard Adams, and George Orwell.

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