Artist and Maker Spotlights Creative Things

I Love John R. Neill

Jack Pumpkinhead and Sawhorse
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I first discovered John R. Neill in college when I bought a postcard with one of his Jack Pumpkinhead and Sawhorse illustrations on the front. I found these characters simultaneously creepy and wonderful, and it retained an honorable place as one of my wall decorations for several years. (Did you use postcards as wall art?)

Jack Pumpkinhead and The Sawhorse from Little Wizard Stories of Oz (1914)

These two characters recur in the Oz books and are supposedly dumb as bricks. (I would kill for a dog that looks like Sawhorse.)

 

Jack Pumpkinhead and Sawhorse

 

Jack Pumpkinhead and Sawhorse by John R. Neill

The Marvelous Land of Oz - illustrated by John R. Neill

 

In high school, Neill discovered his talent for drawing, and then dropped out of art school after a semester because he felt there was nothing for him to learn there. He then developed his skill while working at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Neill had to be persuaded to take the first Oz illustration gig after 3 meetings because he was so busy with his newspaper work.

But then!

He illustrated over 30 of the Land of Oz books beginning in 1904, written by L. Frank Baum and then Ruth Plumly Thompson. He’s best known for this work, but he also continued to illustrate for magazines and newspapers during most of his career.

Oz books illustrated by John R. Neill

Baum and Neill collaborated on The Sea Fairies, a book that Baum intended to be the first in another fantasy series, but it met with poor reception and the project was scrapped after the second book. Check out the illustrations:

Sea Fairies illustration John R. Neill

 

Sea Fairies illustration John Neill

 

Sea Fairies illustration John R. Neill

 

Sea Fairies illustration John R. Neill

Whaddaya think? Do you dig the illustrations from a hundred years ago? Do your kids? I love to hear what kids have to say about old childrens’ book illustrations.

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  • My kids are grown and gone, but I love those illustrations, too! I’ve never seen his work before! Thanks so much for sharing. I just stopped by from SITS to say hello; hope you have time to do the same.

  • I love his work! Thanks for introducing me to him. And I still keep postcards on my wall…I should probably frame them and elevate their status a bit!

    • Wait- were you a kid in the early 1900’s? Ha! Just a little art humor. I need to actually read some of them, because they sound fun. I’m surprised only one out of all the OZ books that were published really took off.

  • Hello..
    I recently found this postcard..Is this the John Doe character from a Frank L Baum Book? Is this John R Neill artwork?
    Any help would be appreciated…
    Thanks,
    Wendy Marsaln
    Oops..How can I send you a photo?

    • Hi Wendy- I thought you could just add the url of the image in this comment box, but if you can’t, feel free to send it to jeanette (@) craftwhack (dot) com and I’d be happy to look at it.