Tudor, Tasha 1915–2008

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Tudor, Tasha 1915–2008

(Starling Burgess)


See index for CA sketch: Born August 28, 1915, in Boston, MA; died June 18, 2008, in Marlboro, VT. Businesswoman, illustrator, and children's author. Tudor wrote and illustrated nearly fifty books between 1938 and 2003 and illustrated a similar number of works by other authors. Her delicate watercolor paintings and pencil drawings drew millions of children into enchanted lands where animals talked, dolls married, and modern-day living was not even on the horizon. It was a happy and secure world for children, a world of family, friendship, and small pleasures. Tudor was nominated for the prestigious Caldecott Medal for artists twice in her career: in 1945 for her illustrations in Mother Goose and in 1957 for her original counting book 1 Is One. Nonetheless, she claimed that her books were part of a commercial, rather than an artistic, venture: she needed to earn a living. Her first self-illustrated book, Pumpkin Moonshine, languished for several years before it was published in 1938. Tudor spent the next few years primarily illustrating books for other authors, but she managed to publish an original title every year or two. She created children's stories, holiday tales, and verse collections, all illustrated in her trademark Victorian style. In 1971 Tudor invented the Corgiville Fair, inspired by her love for the short-legged corgi dogs that she had welcomed into her life until there were more than a dozen of them on her New Hampshire farm. The book reportedly became her favorite, and Tudor published several sequels, including Corgiville Christmas, which appeared in 2003, when the author was nearly ninety years old. Tudor's books have remained in print for decades. Many were reprinted by the Jenny Wren Press, which she had founded with a friend in 1989. Tudor's books have sometimes been described as akin to whimsical fantasies, but many of her stories were based on actual events from her life.

Her life itself was in many ways a fantasy. A conventional childhood in Boston, where she was originally known as Starling Burgess, gave way to a more rustic adolescence in rural Connecticut, during which time she adopted her nickname "Tasha" and her mother's maiden name "Tudor" as her legal name. Tudor's love for nature and simplicity blossomed there, and she spent most of her adult years in idyllic, peaceful surroundings. If her drawings evoked nostalgia for the nineteenth century, her lifestyle personified it. Tudor wore period clothing, raised or grew her own food, spun cloth from flax, and sewed or knitted her own clothing, for many years without benefit of electricity or running water. Her favorite time period began in 1830, when daily living was harder and simpler at the same time. She sometimes claimed to be the reincarnation of a sea captain's wife who had lived in the 1800s and hoped that she could return there when her life in this century was complete. Tudor left a substantial legacy to the future, in addition to nearly one hundred books full of her wistful illustrations. Her artwork and craft projects are part of a home-based family business begun by Tudor and perpetuated by her children and descendants. Tudor-decorated folk objects, from greeting cards to art prints, clothing, dolls, and home furnishings, seem likely to be available for many years to come.



Brown, Richard, The Private World of Tasha Tudor, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.

Davis, Harry, The Art of Tasha Tudor, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.

Hare, William John, and Priscilla T. Hare, Tasha Tudor: The Direction of Her Dreams; The Bibliography and Collector's Guide, Oak Knoll Press (New Castle, DE), 1999.

Tudor, Bethany, Drawn from New England: Tasha Tudor, Collins (New York, NY), 1979.


Chicago Tribune, June 20, 2008, sec. 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2008, p. B6.

New York Times, June 20, 2008, p. C10.