Bard of Avon

Henriette Willebeek Le Mair (1889-1966) may not be a household name, but her work has been seen by children around the world each night at bedtime when they read A Child's Garden of Verse.

Henriette Willebeek Le Mair was born on April 23, 1889, in Rotterdam, Holland. Both her parents were creative people. Her father sketched the children while he told them bedtime stories. Her mother painted and wrote poetry.

When Henriette was five years old, her parents took her to meet French illustrator Maurice Boutet de Monvel. His advice was to study anatomy and work on painting children's portraits. She also studied art at Rotterdam Academy for two years. One of Henriette drawing masters required her to draw a model dancing in circles, first slowly and then faster and faster.

In 1904, Willebeek Le Mair's first book, Premières Rondes Enfantines, was published in France. The following year she and her mother worked together on three books. Her mother wrote the text and Henriette illustrated them.

Running a nursery school out of her home gave her the opportunity to observe children at play. Henriette paid special attention to detail and painted using muted colors and decorative borders. She also painted and designed children's breakfast sets for the Gouda Pottery Company. Henriette illustrated a total of 14 books during her career.

Some of Willebeek Le Mair's other works include: Milne, A.A., A Gallery of Children; Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child's Garden of Verse, and Little Songs of Long Ago, re-published by Putnam in 1988.

A critic from The Studio wrote: "Since the days of Kate Greenaway I know of no one who has caught so well the spirit of childhood as Miss Willebeek Le Mair."

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