Born to parents Rosamond Tudor and William Starling Burgess, both from families who knew wealth and influence, Tudor entered the world on August 28, 1915. Her birth was planned and deliberate under sad and devastating conditions. Rosamond and William had previously scandalized Boston society by engaging in an affair. William's first wife had committed suicide, and Rosamond decided to divorce her husband, a close friend of William's by whom she had a son. After the drama, shock, and gossip quieted down and the bitter divorce was finalized, Rosamond and William married and had two sons.
Rosamond gained acclaim for her stunning ability to paint portraits, while William focused his attention on yacht design as a profession and aided the advancements of aviation. It was on William's boat that son Edward fell off and drowned, leaving his parents feeling responsible and guilty. This death eventually led to their divorce. But before they became irreconcilable, they decided to have another child to replace the one they lost, preferably a son. When Tudor was born, she was named Starling Burgess, after her father. He shortly then rechristened her to Natasha, for his favorite heroine in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. She was nicknamed Tasha.
The family lived together in Boston until Rosamond and William divorced. Rosamond determined to return to her artwork and moved to New York City. Deeming Greenwich Village an inappropriate place to raise a child, she left Tudor in the care of friends in Redding, Connecticut. Thus, at the age of nine, Tudor fell into a bohemian, creative, artistic, unconventional environment and loved it. Gone were the formalities and the stilted, reserved atmosphere of Boston. In Connecticut Tudor developed a love of the theater, dance, and nature, hoping to one day own a farm herself. Her creativity spilled out as she lived with the Mikkelson family.
Of her father Tudor saw very little. Though she tended to idealize his actions and behavior, her father suffered from a gastric ulcer, leaving him almost addicted to morphine. He had affairs, marriages, divorces, bouts of depression, suicidal tendencies, and problems with money. Tudor saw her mother more frequently, visiting her studio, traveling to Bermuda with her in the winters, and enjoying summers on a farm in Redding that Rosamond had bought. All in all, neither parent consistently raised their daughter, and Tudor often did as she pleased.
Tudor spent time with her grandmother in Boston, attended Spring Hill School, and drew numerous pictures. Though she spent a year at the Boston Museum School, Tudor gained more insight from watching her mother's style and techniques. It was while in New York that Tudor hit upon changing her name. Because her mother's friends always introduced her as Rosamond Tudor's daughter, people assumed her last name was Tudor. Liking the sound of it, Tudor quit using her last name and began calling herself Tasha Tudor. She later legalized the name change.
While still a teenager, Tudor took her illustrations and added words to create several unpublished books. She had already decided to be an illustrator, and so she practiced the skills she would use in that career. Her other dream was to be in the country, living a simple and unpretentious lifestyle. Starting her own daycare to earn money, Tudor wanted a cow as a start on her future. When her uncle surprised her with a cow, Tudor was able to put her savings aside for later. She also benefited from an inheritance that gave her furniture, heirlooms, and kitchen items.
At age twenty, she met and later married Thomas McCready, Jr. He encouraged her love of illustrating by suggesting she create a portfolio. Though publishers rejected her initial work, her book Pumpkin Moonshine was later accepted. It was intended as a Christmas present for a niece, but it gave her the confidence to continue drawing as a profession. McCready also purchased a farmhouse in New Hampshire so Tudor could realize her dream of country living. They lived in an old-fashioned way, eschewing even running water and electricity until the youngest child of the four children was five years old. Tudor and the children learned to hand-wash their clothes, make bread, sew clothing, plant and tend a large garden, and spin and weave flax.
Keeping busy with the farm life, Tudor also illustrated books for other authors. She received the Caldecott Honor Award for her work on Mother Goose and another Caldecott Honor for her book 1 Is One. Her lifestyle influencing her career, Tudor drew for fairy tales, Christmas stories, Bible stories, and bedtime stories. In all she illustrated almost 100 books.
Years later, after divorcing her husband, Tudor bought land in Vermont, and her son Seth built her a house using only hand tools. Antiques filled the home, most of which she used in every day life.
Tudor is perhaps most recognized for her story called Corgiville Fair based on her love for Corgi dogs. The positive response to the book encouraged her to pen other stories, including the 2003 book Corgiville Christmas. Tudor toured the country and gave talks wherever she went. Also a weaver, spinner, doll and doll house maker, and sewer, Tudor enjoyed the home arts as well as writing and drawing Christmas cards, Valentines, Advent calendars, and posters. Feisty, and full of life, Tudor lived into her early 90s, passing away on June 18, 2008.
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