The year was 1963 and in the small bookstore come stationer that was one of my favorite childhood haunts, there was a new book that immediately grabbed my attention. In those far away days when color printing was still something of a luxury, books that boasted a large format and cover to cover color printing were still something of an event. But this book was an even in itself, for the cover with Greek warriors in a duel to the death, their boldly painted forms silhouetted against a white background was an introduction to the work of one of the most extraordinary illustrator teams I have ever come across.
Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone were twin sisters who literally shared every commission they undertook, and by share I mean share as in working on the same artwork, each of the girls bringing their particular skills and interest to the project they were working on, Janet's particular passion was drawing animals, whilst Anne's love of costume was where she devoted much of her energies. Passing each artwork from one to the other they would produce artworks that were literally a combined operation.
Born in 1928 and raised in an environment where their artistic prowess was encouraged both at home and at school the sister soon gained recognition as illustrators whose innate sense of form, design and drama (much of it presumably inherited from their mother Doris Zinkeisen who was a noted portraitist and costume designer) was apparent from an early age.
Tales of the Greeks and Trojans, therefore was not their first or most prominent commission, in fact by the time they embarked on this masterpiece, they were well and truly in command of a very successful illustration practice, having provided artwork for Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmations and undertaken commissions as diverse as an updated (1950) version of the 19th nursery horror classic Struwwelpeter and pioneering work for BBC Children's TV on such series as Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben.
Enough of the preamble here's the artwork.
Plush Forest Animals, c.1938
3 hours ago