Virginia Frances Sterret was born in 1900 and grew up in a small town in Missouri. She was an introverted child with a talent for art. She immersed herself in her other worldly drawings and at the young age of 13 entered some illustrations into the Kanas State Fair and won 3 first prizes. Then at 15 she won a full scholarship to Chicago’s Art Institute. By 19 she received her first illustration job when she was commissioned by Penn Publishing Company to illustrate the Comptesse de Ségur’s Old French Fairy Tales.
Despite her small town origins, her work was completely cutting edge and of the time. Bridging that gap between the Art Nouveau movement with her organic shapes and flowy forms into the Art Deco movement with her angles and geometric patterns and elongated characters. A beautiful meeting of two worlds. At 19 she contracted Tuberculosis and by 22 was confined to a Sanatorium. But she didn’t let her illness slow her down and at the age of 23, while still ill and convalescing in the hospital, she began work on her masterpiece – Arabian Nights. She had very little strength and could only draw in small increments. But she carried on and after 3 years, Arabian Nights was completed.
Virginia had a slight improvement in her health and began having exhibits around where she lived in California. In 1930 she began work on her last commission, a series of illustrations for Myths and Legends. Sadly, this commission was never completed, her health took a turn for the worse and she died on June 8, 1931. She was 30 years old. Her local newspaper wrote this obituary – “Her life spent in prosaic places of the West and Middle West, she made pictures of haunting loveliness, suggesting Oriental lands she never saw and magical realms no one ever knew except in the dreams of childhood….Perhaps it was the hardships of her own life that gave the young girl’s work its fanciful quality. In the imaginative scenes she set down on paper she must have escaped from the harsh actualities of existence.” What a truly gifted woman! wow! oxo gd