May Gibbs’ Artwork
May Gibbs was Australia’s first full-time, professionally trained children’s book illustrator. May grew up in an artistic household and was encouraged in her art from an early age. She won her first art prize at the age of 15 for her entry in a Western Australian wildflowers exhibition in Perth. Studying art in London, she became proficient in various styles of artwork resulting in assignments for newspaper illustrations, magazine covers and publishing houses in both London and Perth. Embodying the ‘Modern Woman’, May also contributed cover designs and illustrations to leading suffragette journal The Common Cause.
During World War I, anxious to support the war effort, May created a series of postcards for people to send to the soldiers. They were also included in the Red Cross parcels sent to Australian troops. The postcards featured images of kookaburras and kangaroos and carried characteristically Australian sentiments.
Best known for her Gumnut Babies and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, May created a uniquely Australian bush fantasy world through her beautiful illustrations which remain so loved to this day. She was also Australia’s first female cartoonist, with her popular Bib and Bub cartoon strip which became Australia’s longest running strip from 1924 until 1967. This success led to a second cartoon strip Tiggy Touchwood for a rival newspaper, written under the pseudonym Stan Cottman.
In 1955, May Gibbs was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) in acknowledgement of her important contribution to children’s literature.
May Gibbs created a remarkable amount of artwork over her lifetime. Enjoy browsing a selection of postcards, illustrations, portraits and cartoons to learn more about May's iconic Australian work.
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