Top 10 Oz Illustrations, Part 14: Glinda of Oz, Illustrated by John R. Neill

Well, this is it for my Top 10 Oz Illustrations series. This book is the last in L. Frank Baum's canon, and although there have been other Oz authors taking up the mantle since his death, Baum's are perhaps the best loved and best remembered. (And they have also been in print a lot longer than the others.)

Besides The Magic of Oz, (which I wrote about last week,) this is another one of Baum's immediately posthumous Oz titles, having been published on July 10, 1920, (over a year after his death.) Sadly, unlike The Magic, it does not have Baum's usual cheery preface at the beginning, but instead has a somber note from the publishers announcing that "In May, nineteen hundred nineteen, [Baum] went away to take his stories to the little child-souls who had lived here too long ago to read the Oz stories for themselves."

As I write this, I'm also struck by the finality of it all. I wrote the very first of these entries on January 24 of this year, and I guess you could say it's been a journey of sorts. One that I knew would end, but was too caught up in the process to realize how soon the end would come, or what a void such an end would leave.

I'd also like to briefly mention that these posts have had a lot of positive reactions on social media. The people who follow the Dominion Graphic Arts Facebook page have been very supportive of this endeavor, and I'd like to extend my gratitude to all you Facebook followers as well.

I'll always figure out other things to write about, but it would be nice to get some suggestions. If you have any topics in mind that you would like to read about, don't be a stranger. Please let me know your thoughts and I'll do my best.

I have other ideas for Oz related posts, and may get around to them eventually, but since this is the last Oz book (by Baum, anyway,) I think this is a good stopping point for now.

But enough chatter. Let's begin our countdown of the Top 10 Illustrations from Glinda of Oz.

10.) Tailpiece from Chapter 3: One of many things I find so fascinating about art is how, in some cases, just a bunch of faint little squiggles can suggest a subject very effectively, and this is just one illustration in which John R. Neill has mastered the art of the "squiggle drawing". The looseness of the lines, and the generally unpolished nature of this drawing are very refreshing to look at, and Neill's ability to effectively execute these kinds of drawings undoubtedly allowed him to save time. The result? More drawings!

9.) Half page illustration from Chapter 1: Just as with any kind of motion, Neill was able to effectively depict speed. Although it was a bit unusual for him to draw horizontal streaks such as the one above Dorothy's head and Ozma's crown, these are important visual indicators of how fast they are going, and, taken along with the rustling of Dorothy's and Ozma's hair, make for an effective illustration.

8.) Full page illustration from Chapter 7: Even though the palm trees are all in a row across the entire image, partially obscuring the Skeezer Island, they are oddly effective in framing the island as our focal point. Maybe it's the gap in the middle, or the fact that Ozma and Dorothy are at bottom looking onward, (which in and of itself naturally leads your eye towards the island,) or maybe its that the leaves at the top form a sort of frame along with the border and the grass at bottom. Or maybe it's all of the above. But this does make for an interesting, mysterious, and alluring composition. We look on at the island along with Ozma and Dorothy, and we wonder what sorts of adventures we'll encounter next.

7.) Title page: Besides being a perfect example of Neill's skill at hand-lettering, what I especially admire about this image is his use of lighting. The dark vignette in the background, plus the shadows around the face, indicate a very warm, soft glow, giving it the feel of an old master portrait drawing.

6.) Chapter 3 header: I've mentioned Neill's proficiency with fluid motion many times, and this is no exception, but what's so striking here is the sheer number of gracefully moving figures. It was probably very complicated to draw, but Neill handled it well!

5.) Color plate from Chapter 2: More fluid motion here, so I won't comment too much about that. But Neill's choice of colors is very important to this image, as this is a light and airy scene that demands light and airy colors. Soft pastel blues and yellows make up the majority of this image, and, to my mind, no other colors are more effective in conveying the fact that the main characters are being carried through the air.

4.) Color plate from Chapter 15: I've always liked this image for its use of color and composition. Those elements, in tandem, give this image a very warm, intimate, and reassuring vibe. They make us feel all the more comforted by the presence of the wizard, who, along with the rest of the Oz characters, will make everything better in the end.

As a side note, I remember way back in 2003, the Books of Wonder website was offering the original of this image for a very high price. (Probably somewhere in the thousands, though I don't really remember for sure.) That might have been a very interesting thing to own, and I hope that whoever bought it got a lot of enjoyment out of it.

3.) Chapter 4 header: This image is brimming with intricate detail, and it also has a very bizarre, otherworldly quality to it. Odd looking plants; a large, brightly beaming, saucer-shaped sunset; and warm shadows, almost make it look like one of Heironymus Bosch's visions of paradise, (The Garden of Earthly Delights is one that comes to mind,) and, just like with any Bosch painting, we can't help but be drawn in and entranced by the whole thing.

2.) Half page illustration from Chapter 15: Usually the images in these articles are ranked for their positive qualities, but here it's almost the opposite. My major criticism is the fact that this is the only Neill illustration of the Scarecrow that is lacking his highly distinctive nose. Was it a printing error? I assumed so, until I researched this image in other editions, and they all have the same fluke. I find myself scratching my head because Neill couldn't possibly have forgotten something so important, so is he even to blame for this oversight? We'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but I still think the whole thing is just too strange...

1.) Color plate from Chapter 16: To end this series, what better image than this one? All the Oz characters saying their final goodbyes in a dazzling burst of color. What a bang to end it with! So naturally I had to put this in the number one spot.

And that's it for this list. Do you agree with it? What image from Glinda of Oz was your favorite? Maybe there was one you wish I had included?

As always, please let me know in the comments section so we can get a nice conversation going.

Till next time!

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