Penfield’s Holland

Holland PenfieldEdward Penfield (1866 – 1925) was a leading American illustrator in the era known as the “Golden Age of American Illustration” and he is considered the father of the American Poster. His work has been included in almost every major book on American Illustration or the history of the poster. He is also a major figure in the evolution of graphic design. He was born in New York in 1866, and studied painting there. Later he continued his training in Holland and England. Returning to the United States he became art editor of Harper’s in 1891, and designed many magazine covers, posters, calendars, and contributed the illustrations to many stories and articles.

In 1907 he published Holland, a book about his travels there. It is beautifully illustrated with colourful illustrations in the style of Harper’s. In one of the four chapters, ‘Impressions of Amsterdam’, he describes what he sees on a walk in the old city, in fact he likes it so much that he thinks some of it should be taken apart and re-assembled in New York:

“It seems strange to me that some historical society has not transported one of these houses to our shores, to mark the most picturesque phase of our existence. They are small and could be sawed in sections and set up exactly as they stand. What an addition one would be to the historical interest of New York!”

Later he describes seeing the Dutch Queen:

“She soon came by, in a carriage very much like our victoria, and followed by a hundred or more mounted guards with swords clanking at their horses’ sides. I have heard it said that the Dutch love their Queen, but a surly and ill-mannered crowd it was that stood about. Hats were not removed generally, and some of her subjects whistled as she passed. I was sorry, for she looked mild and sweet, and rather pale as she sat and bowed from right to left.”

That must have been a young Queen Wilhelmina that he saw. Good to see that the Dutch had a healthy lack of respect for the pomp and circumstance surrounding the royalty even then. Like the current lot, she may have been popular in general, but the Dutch are not likely to kowtow to their King or Queen.







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