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 Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor

Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 18 Jun 2008 (aged 92)
Marlboro, Windham County, Vermont, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend
Memorial ID 27761211 · View Source
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June 20, 2008
Tasha Tudor, Children's Book Illustrator, Dies at 92

Tasha Tudor, a children's illustrator whose pastel watercolors and delicately penciled lines depicted an idyllic, old-fashioned vision of the 19th-century way of life she famously pursued — including weaving, spinning, gathering eggs and milking goats — died on Wednesday at her home in Marlboro, Vt.

She was 92, if one counts only the life that began on Aug. 28, 1915. Ms. Tudor frequently said that she was the reincarnation of a sea captain's wife who lived from 1800 to 1840 or 1842, and that it was this earlier life she was replicating by living so ardently in the past.

Her son Seth confirmed the death. He suggested that his mother's more colorful remarks might be taken with a pinch of salt.

A cottage industry grew out of Ms. Tudor's art, which has illustrated nearly 100 books. The family sells greeting cards, prints, plates, aprons, dolls, quilts and more, all in a sentimental, rustic, but still refined style resembling that of Beatrix Potter.

In her promotion of such a definitive lifestyle, Ms. Tudor has been called a 19th-century Martha Stewart. Books, videotapes, magazine articles and television shows illuminated her gardening and housekeeping ideas.

For 70 years her illustrations elicited wide admiration: The New York Times in 1941 said her pictures "have the same fragile beauty of early spring evenings."

Her drawings, particularly the early ones, often illustrated the almost equally memorable stories she herself wrote. Some details: Sparrow Post, a postal service for dolls with delivery by birds. Birthday parties featuring flotillas of cakes with lighted candles. Mouse Mills catalogs, for ordering dolls clothes made by mice, who take buttons for pay.

The Catholic Library World said in 1971 that Ms. Tudor shed "a special ray of sunshine" with pictures that carry "the imagination of children into history, into the human heart, into the joys of family life, into love of friendship itself."

Two of Ms. Tudor's books were named Caldecott Honor Books: "Mother Goose" (1944) and "1 Is One" (1956). Ms. Tudor was just awarded the Regina Medal by the Catholic Library Association.

But it was her uncompromising immersion in another, less comfortable century that most fascinated people. She wore kerchiefs, hand-knitted sweaters, fitted bodices and flowing skirts, and often went barefoot. She reared her four children in a home without electricity or running water until her youngest turned 5. She raised her own farm animals; turned flax she had grown into clothing; and lived by homespun wisdom: sow root crops on a waning moon, above-ground plants on a waxing one.

"It is healthful to sleep in a featherbed with your nose pointing north," she said in an interview with The Times in 1977.

Starling Burgess, who later legally changed both her names to Tasha Tudor, was born in Boston to well-connected but not wealthy parents. Her mother, Rosamond Tudor, was a portrait painter, and her father, William Starling Burgess, was a yacht and airplane designer who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller.

Ms. Tudor could not remember a time when she did not draw pictures or make little books. She was originally nicknamed Natasha by her father, after Tolstoy's heroine in "War and Peace." This was shortened to Tasha. After her parents divorced when she was 9, Ms. Tudor adopted her mother's last name.

In an autobiography she wrote in 1951, Ms. Tudor said she did not start school until she was 9, although other biographies say she began as early as 7. She attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for a year, but said she learned painting from her mother. Her art was often framed by ornate borders like those from a medieval manuscript, but more whimsical.

Partly to protect her from Jazz Age Greenwich Village, where her mother had moved, Ms. Tudor was sent to live with a couple in Connecticut, drama enthusiasts who included children in the plays they put on. She soon developed a love of times past and things rural, going to auctions to buy antique clothing before she was 10. At 15 she used money she had made teaching nursery school to buy her first cow.

In 1938 she married Thomas Leighton McCready Jr., who was in the real estate business. A fiddler played the wedding march. Mr. McCready encouraged his bride to put together a folio of pictures and seek publishers. She was repeatedly turned down before her first published book, "Pumpkin Moonshine" (1938), was accepted by Oxford University Press. It was the start of a flood, many still in print.

Ms. Tudor's favorite of all her books was "Corgiville Fair," one of several she wrote about the Welsh corgi dogs she kept as pets, sometimes 13 or 14 at once. Her 1963 illustrated version of "The Secret Garden," by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells of children enraptured by a mysterious garden. The volume of Clement C. Moore's "Night Before Christmas" that she illustrated remains popular.

She rebuked those who said she must be enthralled with her own creativity.

"That's nonsense," she said. "I'm a commercial artist, and I've done my books because I needed to earn my living."

She and her husband moved to a 19th-century farmhouse in New Hampshire that lacked electricity and running water, but did have 17 rooms and 450 acres. Ms. Tudor painted in the kitchen, in between baking bread and washing dishes. She created a dollhouse with a cast of characters, two of whom were married in a ceremony covered by Life magazine.

Ms. Tudor was divorced from Mr. McCready, who later died, and from a second husband, Allan John Woods. In 1972 she sold the New Hampshire farm and moved onto her property near her son Seth in Marlboro.

In addition to Seth, Ms. Tudor is survived by her daughters Bethany Tudor of West Brattleboro, Vt., and Efner Tudor Holmes of Contoocook, N.H.; another son, Thomas, of Fairfax, Va.; eight grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and her half-sister, Ann Hopps of Camden, Me.

Ms. Tudor, who could play the dulcimer and handle a gun, once promised a reporter for The Times that she could find a four-leaf clover within five minutes and came back with a five-leaf one in four minutes. She kept a seven-leaf clover framed in her room.

She told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk in 1996 that it was her intention to go straight back to the 1830s after her death.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Tasha Tudor - born Starling Burgess in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 28, 1915, is an American illustrator and author of children's books. At birth, she was named for her father, the naval architect Starling Burgess, known as "the Skipper". As he was an admirer of War and Peace's Natasha, she was soon re-christened, and the name was eventually shortened to Tasha. When socializing with her mother's friends, she would usually be introduced as "Rosamund Tudor's daughter, Tasha", leading others to believe that her last name was Tudor. Liking the sound of it, she eventually adopted the name for herself, and she eventually changed her name legally before applying for a passport. She married Thomas McCready in 1938 in Redding, Connecticut. Her first story, Pumpkin Moonshine, was published in 1938, as a gift for a young niece of her husband. They were divorced in 1961, and her children adopted her name.

She has illustrated nearly one hundred books, the most recent being Corgiville Christmas, released in 2003. Several were collaborative works with a New Hampshire friend Mary Mason Campbell. Tudor lives in Marlboro, Vermont in a house copied from that of other New Hampshire friends Donn & Doris Purvis. Her son Seth built the replication and lives next door with his family. It is documented in Drawn from New England, and in The Private World of Tasha Tudor. Mother and son work closely on family endeavors.

She has received many awards and honors, including Caldecott Honors for Mother Goose in 1945 and 1 is One in 1957. She received the Regina Medal in 1971 for her contributions to children's literature. Her books feature simple, captivating and often rhyming text accompanied by enchanting detailed and realistic drawings with soft colors. Text and pictures are often bordered by intricate details such as flowers, birds or other charming objects and animals. The visual or textual content often refers to traditions, artifacts or memories of the 19th century. Her books are highly valued possessions of an appreciative audience - one that has grown since she was first represented in the 1940s by the Pennsylvania shop The Dutch Inn in Mill Hall. She has also created thousands of original works of art which appear on Christmas cards, Advent calendars, Valentines, posters, and in other forms. The original art is found in museums, libraries and hundreds of private collections around the world.

One of her most famous books is Corgiville Fair, published in 1971. The first of a series to feature anthropomorphic corgis, the book was extremely popular.

Tudor toured the country for many years, giving speeches at libraries, colleges and museums. Her last major appearances were at the 1996/97 retrospective exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg. Many of her personal artifacts and doll house objects were shown there as well as fine manuscripts loaned by the Pierpont Morgan Library. An exhibition celebrating Tudor's holiday artwork and celebrations, "Tasha Tudor's Spirit of the Holidays", was displayed in 2005/06 at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass. and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in 2006/07. It will be shown at the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City from November 2007 through March 2008. That exhibit includes two early oil paintings that Rosamund Tudor created of her daughter circa 1920 and 1930. Many other original paintings and her first miniature illustrated manuscript Hitty's Almanac were included in the 2006 exhibition at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.

Tudor's daughters Bethany Tudor and Efner Holmes are also accomplished authors and illustrators. -- Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia

Titles written and illustrated by Tasha Tudor include, but are not limited to, the following:

* Pumpkin Moonshine
* A Tale for Easter
* Snow before Christmas
* Thistly B
* The Dolls' Christmas
* Edgar Allan Crow
* Amanda and the Bear
* A is for Annabelle
* 1 is One
* A Time to Keep
* Corgiville Fair
* Tasha Tudor's Seasons of Delight
* The Great Corgiville Kidnapping

Titles illustrated by Tasha Tudor include, but are not limited to the following:

* The Wind in the Willows, 1966, World Publishing
* Wings from the Wind, 1964, J. B. Lippincott
* A Basket of Herbs, 1983, Stephen Greene Press
* The Night Before Christmas, 1975, Rand McNally & Company

Family Members


See more Tudor memorials in:

  • Created by: Nahm
  • Added: 23 Jun 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 27761211
  • Elizabeth & Ron
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Tasha Tudor (28 Aug 1915–18 Jun 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 27761211, ; Maintained by Nahm (contributor 46866330) Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.