H.R. Millar: Victorian Illustrator

by Anna Blanch on February 22, 2011

Harold Robert Millar (1869 – 1940) was a prolific Scottish graphic artist and illustrator of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.* He is best known for his illustrations of children’s books and fantasy literature “His work…has a lively, imaginative charm and a distinctive sense of design.”**Born in Dumfries, in 1869, Millar first studied and worked in civil engineering before deciding upon an artistic career. He studied at the Wolverhampton Art School and the Birmingham School of Art, before establishing his career as a magazine illustrator with Punch, Good Words, and other periodicals of the day. Millar “flourished” between 1890 and 1935. (Hearn 383)

Worked primarily as a magazine illustrator for the Strand, where many of Nesbit’s stories were first published. Millar illustrated fables for the Strand Magazine, and anthologies of tales, The Golden Fairy Book, The Silver Fairy Book, The Diamond Fairy Book, and The Ruby Fairy Book. He illustrated books by a wide range of British authors of his time, including Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Rudyard Kipling. He had an extensive working relationship with Nesbit, and has been called “the most sympathetic and perhaps the most talented of her illustrators.“*** Even though Nesbit and Millar didn’t really like each other, Millar halped to shape the meaning of Nesbit’s books (Sloth in the Magic city is a good example).

Apart from fantasy and children’s books, Millar drew pictures for works like Kate Lawson’s Highways and Homes of Japan (1910) and Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore’s African Jungle Life (1928). Millar was a noted collector of Eastern art and exotic and ancient weapons, and employed his interest and knowledge in these areas in his artwork.

Here’s a list of some of the victorian works Millar was responsible for illustrating:

Works Cited
 *Stephen Pickett, Victorian Fantasy, second edition, Waco, TX, Baylor University Press, 2005; p. xi-ff
**John Clute and John Grant, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, New York, Macmillan, 1999; p. 646.
***Marcus Crouch, Treasure Seekers and Borrowers: Children’s Books in Britain, 1900–1960, London, The Library Association, 1962; p. 15.

Image: Frontis from the 1st edition of Enid Blyton’s Yellow Fairy Book, illustrated by H.R. Millar

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