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Wright, Maginel (1881–1966)

Wright, Maginel (1881–1966)

American artist known primarily for her illustrations of children's classics, including Hans Brinker and Heidi . Name variations: Maginel Wright Barney; Maginel Wright Enright. Born Maginel Wright on June 19, 1881, in Weymouth, Massachusetts; died on April 18, 1966, in East Hampton, New York; daughter of William Cary Wright (a minister) and Anna (Lloyd-Jones) Wright; sister of architect Frank Lloyd Wright; studied drawing under her brother; attended the Chicago Art Institute; married Walter J. Enright(divorced); married Hiram Barney (died 1925); children: (first marriage) Elizabeth Enright (1909–1968, an author).

Selected writings:

(self-illus.) The Baby's Record through the First Year in Song and Story (1928); (compiler and illus.) Weather Signs and Rhymes (1931); (autobiography) The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses (1965).

Selected illustrations:

(under name Maginel Wright Enright) Clara Whitehill Hunt, About Harriet (1916); (under name M.W. Enright) Mary Mapes Dodge , Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates (1918); (under name M.W. Enright) Songs from Mother Goose, for Voice and Piano (1920); (under name M.W. Enright) Johanna Spyri , Heidi: A Story for Children and Those Who Love Children (1921); Ruth Sawyer, This Way to Christmas (1924); Caroline D. Snedeker, Downright Dencey (1927, selected as Newbery honor book, 1928); Sophie de Ségur, Sophie: The Story of a Bad Little Girl (1929); Philip Broughton, Pandy (1930); Ethel Calvert Phillips, Calico (1937).

Under name Maginel Wright Enright; all written by Laura Bancroft (the pseudonym of L. Frank Baum): Bandit Jim Crow (1906); Mr. Woodchuck (1906); Prairie-Dog Town (1906); Sugar-Loaf Mountain (1906); Prince Mad-Turtle (1906); Twinkle's Enchantment (1906); Policeman Bluejay (1907, also published as Babes in Birdland, 1911); Twinkle and Chubbins: Their Astonishing Adventures in Nature Fairyland (1911).

Born in 1881, Maginel Wright spent her early childhood with her mother's family in the idyllic Wisconsin valley, near Madison. Although she was born in Massachusetts, where her father was the pastor of a church near Boston, her parents had separated when she was still very young, and her mother Anna Lloyd-Jones Wright , homesick for the Wisconsin air, had returned to the large, protective circle of the Lloyd-Jones clan.

Wright was tutored at home by her mother and learned to draw under the guidance of her brother, the future renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was 12 years her senior. She later spent a year at her aunt's school, the Hillside Home School (one of Wright's first architectural designs), which provided her with a nurturing educational environment. "I learned more than in all the other years of my schooling put together," she said. At 12, she moved with her mother to Chicago, where Frank was beginning his career as an architect. After some difficulty deciding where they should live, her mother finally settled on Oak Park, a village suburb half an hour by train from the city. Wright found her new school, unlike Hillside, to be a cold, terrifying place. But the most popular girl at school took the frightened Maginel under her wing. "She gave me courage and confidence in myself and I began to know how to deal with boys."

After graduation, Wright attended the Chicago Art Institute, leaving after a year to take a job as a commercial artist at a Chicago engraving house. Although she wanted desperately to be an illustrator, earning a living took precedence. The job, working on page layouts for catalogues, paid $50 a week, a good income for a young woman at the time. In three years, she had saved enough for a European trip with her mother.

Returning to the States, Wright married illustrator and cartoonist Walter Enright, known as Pat. After their daughter Elizabeth Enright was born, they moved to New York to pursue careers as artists. Finding a large apartment on the top floor of a building that overlooked the Hudson River, Wright set up a home studio, found someone to look after the baby, and went to work. As her nostalgic pictures gained popularity, she soon had as much work as she could manage. Along with her illustrations for children's books, she painted covers for a number of leading magazines, including Woman's Home Companion and Ladies' Home Journal. Although Wright described her life as "happy and busy," her marriage to Enright ended in divorce. She subsequently married a lawyer named Hiram Barney, who died in 1925.

Elizabeth Enright, who also became a popular author and illustrator, remembered standing with her nose pressed to the glass door of her mother's studio, to which she was forbidden entrance unless invited. While the young Elizabeth was often resentful and resorted to whining for attention, for the most part she took her mother's work for granted. Later, she would realize the impact of her mother's art on her own life, remarking: "For she took the responsibility of my upbringing nearly single handed; and in her case the phrase is particularly apt, because she did this by means of her skillful right hand guided by her imaginations."

In addition to creating illustrations for some classic children's stories like Heidi and Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates, Maginel Wright also revolutionized textbook illustrations, which up to that time, in her daughter's words, were "nearly as deadly as the text: 'Ned has gone to the shed. Tom has a red sled….' What my mother did was to bring grace, liveliness, and, above all, imagination to the pages of these books."

During the Depression, Wright created tapestries with colored wools, which she called "long point" because of the lengthy stitches that distinguished them from other tapestry. Several exhibitions of her work were held in New York. In the 1940s, she distinguished herself as a shoe designer, creating high-fashion jeweled and sequined shoes manufactured by Capezio.

In 1965, just before her death, Wright published her autobiography The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses, which focused on her mother's family, the Lloyd-Joneses, and detailed her relationship with her famous brother. She died on April 18, 1966, at the Hunting Lane Rest Home in East Hampton, Long Island.

suggested reading:

Barney, Maginel Wright. The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses. NY: Appleton-Century, 1965.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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