Frances Brundage, an artist of picture books and postcards

by Tolovaj

Frances Brundage, was an extremely productive illustrator of picture books and picture postcards. What makes her so special?

Frances Isabelle Lockwood Brundage became famous thanks to the numerous postcards she created. Her opus is amazing. It looks like she worked almost non-stop from her 17th year right to her death at 82 years, illustrating hundreds of books and thousands of picture postcards with numerous printable projects as well.

We'll never know why she had only one child who died before turning two and what would happen to her career if she spent more time as a mother and housewife.

Let's explore Frances Brundage in 10 of her numerous roles!

1. Daughter

She was born Frances Isabelle Lockwood on June 28, 1854, to Rembrandt Lockwood (1815-1889) and Sarah Ursula Despeaux in Newark (NJ). Her father was an architect, portraitist, and miniaturist who also painted church murals. Frances showed artistic talent from an early age and received most of her knowledge from her father. There is no record about other (formal) education.

Photo of Frances Brundage

Her youth is unclear. There are several web pages (probably copying one from another) claiming her father left the family when Frances was 17 years old and she was practically forced to support the rest of the family (we don't know if there was anybody else apart from her and her mother) by her work. Yet there are documents showing Rembrandt was still living at the same address when she was 21. At this time, she was officially not employed.

Another unclear piece of info is about Rembrandt's disappearance around 1875 but his letter from 1884 doesn't support that claim. We know he had another daughter with a different surname: Helen Colburn, which means he could have a daughter with another woman who was not his wife. No matter what really happened with him, it's obvious Frances started working early (her first sale was a sketch from the poem of Louisa May Alcott sold to the author) and worked a lot (a lot!) until her death on March 28, 1932.

Snow White and Rose Red illustration by Frances Brundage

Illustration from Snow-White and Rose-Red, 1929

2. Wife

Frances married another artist William Tyson Brundage (1849-1923). They lived in Washington, D.C., and later moved to New York (NY). Their summer house was in Cape Ann (MA).

Frances used her husband's surname for almost all of her artistic career. She also occasionally collaborated with him on some projects, especially picture books, where competition was rough and dead-lines ruthless.

Sinbad illustrated by William and Frances Brundage

Illustration from Arabian Nights, 1893

3. Mother

Frances and Will had only one child. Frances gave birth to a daughter Mary Frances but the girl died being only 17 months old. Many believe this sad experience marked Frances' artistic development. She focused almost her entire career on portraits of children who had dreamy eyes, reddish cheeks, and somehow angelic appearances.

Children pictured by Frances Brundage

4. Illustrator

While her name today is a sort of trademark in the market of postcards, her initial career was in the picture book industry. Industrious she was indeed. Frances Brundage illustrated for Charles E. Graham & Company, De Wolfe, E.P. Dutton, Ernest Nister, Fred A. Stokes, Fiske & Company, Hayes & Koerner, Samuel Gabriel Company (Tuck U.S.), Saalfield, Stecher Lithographic Company, ...

It's next to impossible to count all the picture book projects in which she was involved. We know she illustrated most of the classic fairy tales including Grimm's and Andersen's Fairy tales and Arabian Nights, Heidi, classic works like Robin Hood, Treasure Island, Pinocchio, Robinson Crusoe, stories of King Arthur, Children's Shakespeare, etc. When she was over 60 years old she still illustrated about 20 books per year!

Little Red Riding Hood by Frances Brundage

Illustration from Little Red Riding Hood, 1929

5. Postcard Designer

Frances Brundage made so many attractive illustrations for picture books the same publishers decided to use some of them for postcards as well. The market welcomed such creations and Frances was hired for creating designs for several themed cards. Her valentines, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and other postcards were an instant success, so she soon became one of the major postcard artists.

She was one of the first illustrators whose names were printed on book covers and postcards because her name was a guarantee for a good sale.

Christmas postcard by Frances Brundage

6. Calendar Maker

Calendars became a big business at the same time as postcards. Of course, Frances' skill was in demand in this area too. Many of her creations from the first decades of the 20th century are now valuable collectors' items.

Children's Shakespeare calendar by Frances Brundage

7. Ephemera Creator

Everything that could be printed and sold possessed additional value if Frances Brundage was involved. She created designs for paper dolls, fans, posters, and similar stuff on a large scale. She was fast, reliable, and her art was in demand right to her later years.

Calendar in form of fan by Frances Brundage

8. Exporter

Postcards are the area where Frances Brundage really stands out. Her style was perfect for the evolving chromolithographic printing technique and the popularity of all kinds of cards was on the rise. Yet the major American publishers preferred more-known and established Maud Humphrey.

Well, the biggest postcard publishers in Europe thought differently. Raphael Tuck & Sons from London and Wolff Hagelberg from Berlin. The printing technology in Europe, especially in Germany was superb at those times, so the 'winner' was obvious. Frances Brundage soon became one of the most widely published postcard artists and designers in the world.

We can still find many of her picture postcards in the German language, but the same designs are also available in English thanks to the international business of both major publishers who hired Frances.

Memorial Day picture postcard by Frances Brundage

9. Importer

Thanks to her popularity in Europe, Frances Brundage became one of the most well-known artists in her homeland. Among collectors she still is.

If we need an artist to compare her with, Kate Greenaway would be my first choice thanks to the specific cloth both artists used for their pictures of children and their versatility. Ellen Clapsaddle would be a fair comparison due to her productivity in the field of postcards. If we are a bit more demanding, George Cruikshank could be compared with her due to stereotypes both artists were accused, but Cruikshank's work is today considered as over-the-edge and Frances Brundage's is not.

10. Collectible Artist

Original picture books illustrated by Frances Brundage can, depending on condition, achieve prices of several hundred dollars, and her postcards (depending on the series, circulation, and again, condition) can be sold for several dozens of dollars and collectors predict the price will rise in the future.

Thanksgiving postcard by Frances Brundage

Do you like Frances Brundage's art?

Updated: 06/07/2023, Tolovaj
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Tolovaj on 09/18/2023

No, I don't think so. I don't know if one strip is absent or maybe there was an envelope with 'missing' months or something else. Sorry.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/21/2023

The image between the 8th exporter and the 9th importer roles held by Frances intrigues me.

The little girl's hat manifests a crescent and a star. Albeit not in the same arrangement, with the moon under not next to the star, it prompts images of the Türkiye flag.

Would there be any other association that you know of for that crescent-and-star arrangement?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/20/2023

The image under Frances' role as Ephemera creator intrigues.

It looks like five strips with one month on each. That makes January through May. Their backs might have June through October.

But where would November and December? Would they spill over onto another fan?

Tolovaj on 07/19/2023

Yes, DerdriuMarriner, I believe they co-created many works, often credited to Frances, who was way more famous, only.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/19/2023

The girl in the Christmas image beneath Frances' 5th role looks a bit different from all the other little-girl images.

The head seems too big for the body and hands and especially for the tiny, too-close-together feet.

Would there be any indication anywhere as to the date on this image, which otherwise is among the charmingest?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/17/2023

Rembrandt seems like such a strong choice for a child.

Was it a style in the 19th century to name offspring after famous people instead of cherished close friends or family members? Or would that name suggest a collateral descent from the Dutch artist's family?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/10/2023

The German Wikipedia article on Frances describes her as primarily an illustrator to other people's works even as she illustrated and wrote the children's book Adventures of Jack.

Were there few or many instances of Frances as author and illustrator? If so, would they have done better as, same as or worse than the works where she served only as illustrator? Would there be any indication whether she preferred illustrating for others or illustrating and writing for herself?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/07/2023

Some images have Frances' signature even as others have no such authorship indication.

Were there any serious contenders to copying Frances' style so well as to confound even experts?

Would it make a difference if a Brundage collectable lacked her signature or would she be so unique, so uncopyable that even without a signature the item would guarantee a nice price?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/06/2023

It looks like Frances' mother lived from 1820 to 1907. It also looks like Sarah outlived her husband, but not her daughter.

Might Sarah have lived with her daughter even after the latter's marriage to William Brundage?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/05/2023

The image under Frances' sixth role as calendar maker caught my attention.

The calendar has its days organized according to day of the week. For example, Sunday lists all the days upon which it falls on one line. I recall seeing no calendar organized in such a way, with the day of the week having all its dates on one line.

Would it have been a common, ordinary, typical organization of a calendar month during Frances' lifetime to have organized days and dates of the week in such a way?

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