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It’s at the Kerlan: ‘Millions of Cats,’ written and Illustrated by Wanda Gág

By July 2, 2021October 6th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

By Lisa Von Drasek

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Gág used ink to draw outlines of cats and characters, as well as for shading and creating tonal qualities.

“I aim to make the illustrations for children’s books as much a work of art as anything I would send to an art exhibition.  I strive to make them completely accurate in relation to the text.  I try to make them warmly human, imaginative, or humourous — not coldly decorative — and to make them so clear that a 3-year-old can recognize the main object in them.”

—Wanda Gág

About Wanda Gág

Excerpt from The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter
Wanda Gág

Portrait of Wanda Gág, Print by Robert Janssen, Gelatin Silver Print, 1934; Kerlan Collection, Children’s Literature Research Collections, University of Minnesota Libraries

The modern American picture book starts with Wanda Gág. The eldest daughter of struggling Bohemian immigrant artists, Gág (rhymes with “fog”) grew up in New Ulm, Minnesota, where her family’s defiantly nonconformist ways rendered them local pariahs.

In 1917, Gág moved to New York, supporting herself as a commercial artist. She drew for the leftist publication New Masses, mastered lithography, and began exhibiting her prints in galleries. Her distinctive homespun, expressionistic style caught the eye of an editor keen to challenge the primacy of the British picture-book classics Americans prized.

Critics hailed Gág’s “Millions of Cats,” with its blend of folkloric and modernist influences, as a landmark achievement: exhilarating proof that in cultural attainments, as in industrial and military might, the American Century had indeed begun.

—Leonard S. Marcus “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter”
Learn more about Wanda Gág and her art

“Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gág process art: An old man under a tree looking at a cat and an old man holding several cats in his arms. (Hand Lettered, india ink illustration)

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The Kerlan Collection is an internationally recognized children’s literature library and archive that from its beginnings has benefited from outstanding curators. Help keep the Kerlan in the forefront of children’s literature archives by donating to the Endowed Chair for the Kerlan Collection.

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Kerlan Collection Endowment /
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