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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Female Illustrators of the 1950's: Gyo Fujikawa

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Gyo Fujikawa was born in 1908 in Berkeley, California. She attended the Chouinart Art School in L.A. where some of her fellow students were Hardy Gramatky and Harry Diamond.


In 1932 she travelled to Japan to study the techniques of the Japanese artists...


but returned to the States in '33 because, she said, the Japanese masters would not teach her anything unless she was prepared to spend a year just learning the "business of how to hold a brush in the proper manner."


She instead settled into a job with Bullock and Marston on the West Coast, and then later with Disney Studios.


An article in the May 1954 issue of American Artist magazine describes how Fujikawa developed a special interest in children's books around that time. She eventually went on to illustrate five -- and to write and illustrate another forty five that combined, sold over a million copies.


During her long career she also contributed to the major magazines, to booklets, and pamphlets for medical and technical organizations, to textbooks (as seen in these examples from the 1960's Childcraft children's encyclopedia volumes) and as recently as the 1990's, she designed 6 postage stamps for the U.S. Post Office.

"Her pictures are full of inventiveness," wrote Ervine Metzl in the American Artist article on Fujikawa.


"Anything from a single figure to an all-over design has in it the characteristics of a tapestry. Each corner is full of its own individual excitement."

"Her work is diversified. She is completely at home with layout and the use of type."


"In fact, nothing seems to stop her."

* My Gyo Fujikawa Flickr set.

6 comments

  1. Excellent review - that's a pretty inspiring career right there.

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  2. Would it be too banal to suggest a similariy with Mary Blair here?

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  3. Not at all, Burt... they were both Disney artists -- I think the animation "look" of that period rubbed off on a lot of mid-century illustrators and cartoonists who spent time at Disney early in their careers.

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  4. I absolutely adore Gyo Fujikawa. She wrote and illustrated some of my favorite childhood books. I can't tell you how many times I read Come Follow Me. Her illustrations were sweet, delicate, and timeless. Thank you for highlighting this dear woman and reminding me of some favorite childhood memories :)

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  5. I do see some similarities with Mary Blair and not just the Disney connection. Fujikawa’s works seems more traditional with less stylization and her poses show better understanding of acting and anatomy.

    Another Disney connection that influenced just about everyone including Mary Blair would be the dynamic duo Alice and Martin Provensen.

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  6. I have some Gyo Fujikawa children's books (not "Come Follow Me"). The first one was given to my youngest son by his grandmother. I thought the writing was non-existent but the art was so gorgeous I started collecting them. My kids were never interested in them, they liked other stories better, so they've all become mine and I still love that art, so gorgeous, so distinctive and radiant.

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