Friday, January 11, 2019

the work of pioneering illustrator Gyo Fujikawa.

The Year Santa Went Modern, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa. Family Circle, December 1963.

Fujikawa, born in 1908, grew up in California, and studied at Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles. In 1932, her art studies took her to Japan for a year, after which she returned to California to teach at Chouinard, and then to work for Disney Studios on the theater program hand out for Fantasia, among other things. She even made one in Japanese

Chouinard became CalArts, which was funded by Walt Disney and became a primary source of new Disney animators and artists. Since she taught at Chouinard, she was one of the big reasons CalArts became what it is today.

After several years at Disney, Fujikawa was lured away to New York as art director for William Douglas McAdams, a pharmaceutical company. (says one source, however, the New York Times says: Disney Studios sent her to its advertising department in New York, where she designed many 25-cent Disney books.)

Unlike her parents and younger brother, she escaped internment because she was living in New York; only Japanese residing on the West Coast were sent to the camps. But Fujikawa traveled frequently, and when people became suspicious of her, she often told them she was really Anna May Wong, the Chinese American actress. According to her nephew, Fujikawa took secret delight in this masquerade.

Another notable aspect of Fujikawa’s œuvre was her work designing U.S. postage stamps. In 1960, she designed a four-cent stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan trade agreement. The image, colored in pink and blue, featured a view of Washington, D.C., with the Washington Monument seen through the cherry blossom trees.

The stamp design gained extra publicity when it was featured at an official welcome ceremony for Crown Prince Akihito, the future emperor of Japan, who praised its “felicitous” design. Shortly after, Fujikawa was commissioned to design a cover for the Saturday Evening Post.

Her design, a picture of a parakeet in a cage pressed up against a window to see the snow outside, received widespread publicity when her original painting was stolen from a car in Washington, D.C. after the reproduction for the cover had been completed.  Saturday Evening Post, Jan 1962

She designed 6 stamps for the post office

She illustrated 5 books and wrote 45

After the war, Fujikawa began work as a freelancer, doing commercial drawings and designing Christmas cards. One notable campaign she designed was for Beech-Nut baby food. Fujikawa put together drawings of Mother Goose characters that could be strung together to make a mini book.

Meanwhile, she became active in book design. In 1952, she produced a set of drawings of Disney characters for McCall’s Magazine, such as this appealing, exquisitely colored illustration of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

(By the way, there is a blog that has 8 years of Snow White research, and nothing else - 

Newsweek, Feb. 16, 1953 (European edition). With front cover illustration, "Valentine...Peter Pan", tied to a review of Disney's just-released Peter Pan movie.

The Disney artwork in the above magazines attracted the attention of the children’s publishers Grosset and Dunlap, who hired her to do illustrations for a new edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” published in 1953.

Its success led the publisher to commission further book illustrations. Her edition of Clement Clarke Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” (1961) and her edition of “Mother Goose” (1968) became particular favorites. Not content with providing pictures for other authors’s work, in 1963 Fujikawa persuaded the publisher to put out two original children’s books she had written and illustrated, “Babies” and “Baby Animals.” The two books quickly became children’s best-sellers. Absorbed by the process of creation, Fujikawa gradually withdrew from commercial art and concentrated on writing and illustrating children’s books.

Magazine illustrations that were advertising, (quite a bit for Family Circle magazine)

and I may be wrong, but I believe this iconic Eskimo Pie kid to be her artwork:

which brings me to the connection with my recent unknown artist who invented the Eskimo Pie kid, Walter Oehrle

In her first two books, "Babies" and "Baby Animals," she proposed showing "an international set of babies--little black babies, Asian babies, all kinds of babies." But this was the early 1960s and a sales executive at Grosset and Dunlap told her to take the black babies out for fear they would kill sales in the South.

Fujikawa, a diminutive, elegant but feisty woman, refused. Today the books have sold more than 1.5 million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages. She is often credited as the first children's author to depict a multiethnic cast of characters.

Fujikawa was the only daughter of an immigrant farmer and an aspiring social worker who started their family in Berkeley, later moving to the San Pedro area. Her father, hoping for a boy, named her after a Chinese emperor. When she was born instead, Fujikawa recalled in an autobiographical sketch, "he was so mad he stuck me with the name anyway."

When looking for information on Gyo Fujikawa, the word Nisei comes up, and so, I had to look that up to learn what it means....Nisei is a Japanese language term used in countries in North America and South America to specify the children born in the new country to Japanese-born immigrants. The Nisei are considered the second generation.

So does the word Nikkei, it means Japanese emigrants and their descendants who have taken up residence in other countries.

And then, because whoever wrote these articles was writing for the Japanese descendants, another word pops up, Issei - a Japanese immigrant to North America.

there was even a one act play about Fujikawa and Disney

Though it's not necessary, I'd like to point out that this post is here, instead of spending time on making a post about cars, trucks, etc, because I love art, celebrate artists, and history, and when I come across an artist that worked at Disney, that I haven't learned of before, it blows my mind. I also will go out of my way to post a fuck you to racists and those that supported the internment of citizens  who happened to be sacrifices to politics, during WW2.

1 comment:

  1. If you don't dig up these obscure fun stories who will? With your research, and some judicious bar bets, I can drink for free. Thank you, Sir.