Tasha Tudor remembered for art and vintage fashion

Tasha Tudor, a children’s book illustrator and author whose delicate watercolor and pen and ink artwork was featured in more than 70 books, died June 18 of complications related to old age. She was 92.

Tudor’s work involved charming and sentimental illustrations of simple life in New England settings. Subjects varied from intricate floral borders to children whose fashions reflected the mid-19th century.

A 1944 edition of “Mother Goose” was successful enough to provide her a comfortable lifestyle. However, Tudor used the proceeds to fund a simpler life filled with gardening, goat milking and spinning her own fabrics.

Her first book was “Pumpkin Moonshine,” published in 1938. She illustrated a number of children’s classics, including versions of “The Secret Garden” and “The Night Before Christmas.” She was twice a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal: the first time in 1945 for her artwork in “Mother Goose” and in 1957 for “1 is One,” her book of verse.

In recent years, Tudor’s original art has captured collectors’ interest. Waverly Auctions of Falls Church, Va., sold a watercolor illustration titled “Autumn” for $8,500 in a December 2006 sale. In December 2004, the firm auctioned an original piece just 5 inches high by 3 inches wide that was produced for “Pumpkin Moonshine” for $13,500.

“We hope to have a sale again this fall,” said Dale Sorenson, director of auctions at Waverly, the nation’s No. 1 seller of Tudor’s original works. Sorenson said demand is greatest for Tudor’s early work; however, it is unknown how her recent passing will affect prices and values in the future. What is certain is Tudor’s ability to identify with simple pleasures and pass those warm feelings through her art.

“She touches a nostalgic chord in people, partly due to the rustic nature of her own lifestyle, which is ‘back to nature’ as much as anything,” Sorenson said. “

A longtime antiques lover, Tudor’s collection of vintage fashion was known nationwide for both its scope and quality. At the age of 9, she purchased her first article of early 19th-century clothing. Over the next 70 years, the collection grew into a comprehensive collection of American & European women’s, men’s and children’s historic clothing dating from the mid 18th through the mid 19th centuries.

In 1996, Tudor loaned her entire costume collection to Colonial Williamsburg. Since that time, many garments from the Tudor collection have complemented numerous exhibits at Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace museum.

The remaining garments, nearly 500 items, were offered by the Charles A Whitaker Auction Co. as a single-owner sale in November 2007. The collection was the anchor for a sweeping special exhibit at the October 2007 Atlantique City Antiques & Collectibles Show in Atlantic City, N.J.

Tudor’s survivors include her four children, Bethany Wheelock, Seth Tudor, Thomas Strong and Efner Strong Tudor Holmes; and her grandchildren.