At Christmastime by Worth and Frasconi

We lost another great illustrator of children's books this year. Antonio Frasconi, who died in January was a master of the woodcut, inspired as much by comic books as he was by impressionism, Jazz and politics.

In this sense he was a true American artist, but Frasconi was born in Uruguay, and according to wikipedia came to his art through an almost mythical journey. 'He said that his mother would talk of art at the church where she was brought up as if it was done by God rather than being the work of man. She felt that if Frasconi had been born with a gift then he would already be a famous artist rather than working like her each day.'

This led him to reject art school education, training instead as a printer. His work as a children's illustrator won him acclaim in the 50s, not least his Caldecott winning The House that Jack Built. At Christmastime was produced in 1992, with Frasconi's woodcuts accompanying poems by Valerie Worth. It's full of wit, colour and that undefinable Christmas magic.

What Worth does brilliantly is to look at the trappings of Christmas, finding beauty in the most mundane objects.

At Christmastime is a celebration of those tired little things that you unpack and carefully return to the loft at the end of every holiday. Though you're never entirely sure why

There's a deep sense of melancholy running through this collection, one that will chime with anyone who looks forward so much to Christmas each year, yet can't quite silence the nagging voice in the back of their heads that worries what January will bring.

We end in the spring, with a rebirth, but also a melancholic hint of Christmas passed.


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