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Charles Santore

Charles Santore
Charles Santore

Charles Santore

Artist Spotlight

Award-winning artist Charles Santore (American, b. 1935) has illustrated more than twenty children’s picture books, and his work is included in distinguished American collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

His career began not in the book world but in commercial illustration. He worked for advertising agencies and magazines such as TV Guide, Redbook, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, Time, Life, Newsweek, and other publications. Then, in the 1980s, he had an opportunity to illustrate The Tales of Peter Rabbit, and his career swiftly changed course.

The Boy and His Rabbit
The Boy and His Rabbit from
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Grasshopper and the Owl
The Grasshopper and the Owl from
Aesop’s Fables
“It was my first book and designing it was for me an epiphany,” Santore says. “I soon realized that all the illustrations I had done to this point—whether for the advertising or magazine markets—were essentially posters. All the visual information in a given assignment had to be synthesized into a single attention-grabbing image.” Book illustration was different. It provided time to develop characters, he says, and “get to know them and the world they inhabit. As I choreographed Peter’s movement through Mr. McGregor’s garden, I become aware of the importance of the cadence and pacing of the picture within the context of the book. I now found I could design quiet pictures, pictures that can slowly, rapidly, or whatever the case may be, build into a great finale. For me, it is not unlike staging a ballet or visualizing a musical composition.”

Santore’s career expanded to include classics like Aesop’s Fables, The Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, The Fox and the Rooster, Margery Williams Bianco’s beloved The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Night Before Christmas, which became a New York Times best seller.

Mr. Jeremy Fisher from “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” The Classic Tale of Peter Rabbit and Other Cherished Stories
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the original, Santore illustrated a new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Underground, which was Carroll’s original title for Alice in Wonderland. Santore also recently completed the color illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, which is set for a 2017 release.

In addition to these touchstones of children’s literature, Santore has written and illustrated storybooks of his own, including The Silk Princess and A Stowaway on Noah’s Ark.

Each book can take up to two years to complete, and even after more than 30 years creating narrative illustrations, Santore says, “I’m still on the road.”
Mr. McGregor's Garden
Mr. McGregor’s Garden from The Classic Tale of Peter Rabbit and Other Cherished Stories
All images © Charles Santore
Artist Spotlight