Posted By Art Baxter

As a kid, I liked to look at the detailed landscapes that surrounded the house. There were always lots of little people running around going about their business. There was a front yard in the foreground and the background seemed to go on for miles. Before the coming of "progress," the landscape had a certain kind of woven harmonious order. The colors soft and tastefully easy on the eyes. As the city approaches the colors get brown then dingy gray and the landscape becomes coldly rigid. I used to like to look at the pictures for a long time and experience the feelings they invoked.

little_house-before

The Little House before.

As an adult, designer and illustrator I began to appreciate Burton's economy and sophistication in the actual storytelling. The house remains in the same location for most of the book. As time moves forward, the landscape changes. The house also has some facial expressions. The curtained windows are eyes, the door is the nose and the front steps are the mouth. Early on the mouse seems happy and contented on a blanket of green grass. When the house is in the city, the grass is brown, the windows are broken and the steps aren't upturned into a smile. Soon the house is boarded up. The book is about time, entropy and rebirth.

little_house-after

The Little House after.

Burton's art is in the style of the American gothic. There are cues from Albert Pinkham Ryder, Thomas Hart Benton, the modernism of the Ashcan School, artists of the WPA, and the naive style of painters like Grandma Moses. Her art is a designed cartoon realism. She can be carefree but isn't afraid to face the dark. The timeline of the story suggests the optimism of the progress of the early twentieth century evolving into the depression. But hope was never lost as the house gets a new lease on life at the end.

THE LITTLE HOUSE is still in print and easy to find. Check out this fine book for Virginia Lee Burton's 99th birthday!

Note: Click on Little House detail(s) to view the entire image.

THE LITTLE HOUSE is © 1942 by Virginia Lee Demetrios


 
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