American author James Daugherty (1889-1974) is known for his self-illustrated works about important figures from American history, particularly his biography of Daniel Boone. Born in Asheville, NC, Daugherty was brought up listening to his grandfather's tales about the famous American frontiersman, while living a quiet country childhood in Indiana and Ohio. He studied at the Corcoran School in Washington D.C. and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before moving to London with his parents (his father was stationed there for the Department of Agriculture).
While in London (about 1908), studying under Frank Brangwyn, he disovered Walt Whitman when a fellow student let him borrow his copy of Leaves of Grass. Daugherty "took fire from his vision," he said, and shortly after moved back to America. He settled in Brooklyn Heights and, to make a living, began doing magazine illustrations and advertising drawings--"a waste of precious years," according to him. His career was established by the time WWI began and various agencies of the US government commissioned him to paint propaganda posters. After 1920 and into the 30's, he turned to mural painting depicting vibrant themes from American history--four huge ones are located in the State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, but others hang in the Smithsonian and other museums and private collections scattered across the country.
Finally, he turned to books. The beloved stories of Daniel Boone followed Daugherty through his first assignment of his profession, which was to illustrate Stewart Edward White's Daniel Boone, all the way through the release of his Newbery Award-decorated juvenile biography of the American Frontier hero. Daugherty's singular work garnered applause from many reviewers for its uniqueness in style and concept, and its authenticity respecting Boone and his world. Following this triumph in 1939, and inspired by his taste for the poetry of Walt Whitman, Daugherty proceeded to illustrate and edit the poet's work, America.
These were by no means his only works. Daugherty wrote 15 books himself and illustrated more than 100 (including several by his wife Sonia and son Charles, and an abridgment of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln bio). He worked on books about Emerson, Thoreau, William Blake, and focused a lot on American heroes, writing his own bio of Lincoln as well as accounts of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, and many more. Two of his books, Andy and the Lion and Gillespie and the Guards, were Caldecott Honor Books. He also authored and illustrated no fewer than three Landmarks (including the second one published, Landing of the Pilgrims)!
He died in 1974, at the age of 82, in a Boston nursing home.
Most of his book drawings were done with charcoal, pastels, and black, brown and sepia conte. His art is modernist (he is considered part of the synchromist school), and focused on color abstraction, very fluid and almost reckless in feel, and he doesn't shy away from violence--which has resulted in some controversies in the last couple of decades!
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