Tarrant, Margaret (1888–1959)

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Tarrant, Margaret (1888–1959)

British illustrator and painter. Born Margaret Winifred Tarrant in 1888 in Battersea, south London, England; died on July 28, 1959; daughter of Percy Tarrant (a landscape painter and illustrator) and Sarah (Wyatt) Tarrant; studied art at Heatherley's School of Art, London, early 1920s; Guildford School of Art, 1935.

Selected illustrated books:

Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies (1908); Autumn Gleanings from the Poets (1910); Fairy Stories from Hans Christian Andersen (1910); Charles Perrault's Contes (1910); Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1912); M.A. Bigham's Merry Animal Tales (1913); Nursery Rhymes (1914); Marion St. John Adock's The Littlest One (1914) and Knock Three Times! (1917); F. Cole's A Picture Birthday Book for Boys and Girls (1915); Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1916); K. Howard's The Little God (1918); Robert Louis Stevenson's Songs with Music from A Child's Garden of Verses (1918); Harry Golding's Verses for Children (1918) and Zoo Days (1919); Robert Rudolph's The Tookey and Alice Mary Tales (1919); Our Day (1923); Rhymes of Old Times (1925); Marion St. John Webb's The Forest Fairies, The House Fairies, The Insect Fairies, The Pond Fairies, The Sea Shore Fairies, The Wild-Fruit Fairies (all 1925), The Magic Lamplighter (1926), The Orchard Fairies, The Twilight Fairies, and The Seed Fairies (all 1928); Eleanor Farjeon 's An Alphabet of Magic (1928); Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes (1929); Harry Golding's Fairy Tales and Our Animal Friends (both 1930); The Margaret Tarrant Birthday Book (1932); B. Todd's Magic Flowers (1933); Joan in Flowerland (1935); M. Gann's Dreamland Fairies (1936); Margaret Tarrant's Christmas Garland (1942); The Margaret Tarrant Nursery Rhyme Book (1944); The Margaret Tarrant Story Book (1951); Katherine B. Bamfield's The Story of Christmas (1952).

Margaret Tarrant was born in 1888 in Battersea, England, a suburb on London's south side. Her father Percy Tarrant, a well-known landscape painter and illustrator of books, magazines, and postcards, encouraged young Margaret to draw. As a child, she would use bed sheets to construct a tent and then display her drawings to her parents. The recipient of several awards from her Clapham High School art department, Margaret studied at Heatherley's School of Art in London to become a teacher before deciding instead to concentrate on water-color painting and illustration.

At age 18, Tarrant did illustrations for publishers of Christmas cards; when she was 20, she illustrated Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies (1908). After creating a series of paintings the following year for postcards that were published by C.W. Faulkner, she worked for various other publishers. Within the next four years, she illustrated at least 12 more books, including some of her own. Besides illustrations, she also created postcards, calendars, and silhouette designs, all of which were very popular. Her illustrations from Nursery Rhymes (1914) were reproduced as 48 postcards and sold extremely well. Her best-known painting, The Piper of Dreams, was also reproduced, selling thousands.

In 1920, she and Marion St. John Webb popularized the nursery theme "Flower Fairies." Tarrant had also become friends with children's book illustrator Cicely Mary Barker , whose work influenced her own. During the 1920s and 1930s, her religious paintings became very popular. Tarrant had a long working relationship with the Medici Society, which sent her to Palestine in 1936 to gather additional subject material. The Medici Society also published several of her calendars, greeting cards, and large prints (such as Sea Joy), as well as many of her books and reproductions of her religious and fairy paintings. In addition to her watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings, Tarrant worked in graphite, creating several famous silhouette drawings.

After her parents' deaths in the mid-1930s, Tarrant returned for additional study at the Guildford School of Art, where she met fellow artist and lifelong friend Molly Brett . By 1953, her failing health and poor eyesight forced her to sell her home in Peaslake to live with her friend Brett. Tarrant died in 1959 and left her estate to 12 charities.


Dalby, Richard. The Golden Age of Children's Book Illustration. NY: Gallery, 1991.

Grimes, Teresa, Judith Collins, and Oriana Baddeley. Five Women Painters. Great Britain: Lennard, 1989, pp. 19–20.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan