John Rea Neill (1877 –1943) was a brilliant American illustrator, best remembered for his illustrations for the Oz books. He was a magnificent and creative draftsman whose characters still live in the hearts of millions of children and adults who have been entranced by the stories for over a century.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, John R. Neill did his first illustration work for the Philadelphia's Central High School newspaper in 1894-95. Neill dropped out of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after one semester because he said, "they have nothing to teach me". He then turned to advertising art for the Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia. He became a staff artist of the Philadelphia North American newspaper, for which he produced features like the comics strip Toyland, illustrations for the serialization of 'The Fate of a Crown' (a book by L. Frank Baum), Children's Stories That Never Grow Old, and the Sunday comics page 'The Little Journeys of Nip and Tuck' with verses by W.R. Bradford (1909–1910). He was first commissioned to illustrate “The Marvelous Land of Oz”, the second Oz book L. Frank Baum wrote, published in 1904; “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” had been illustrated by W. W. Denslow, with whom Baum argued and lost contact afterward. - Wikapedia
The following is a statement by his granddaughter: “John Rea Neill illustrated thirty-nine of the forty “canonical” Oz books. Certainly, Oz remains the best-remembered part of his work. This includes the four editions he also wrote, “The Wonder City of Oz”, “The Scalawagons of Oz”, “Lucky Bucky in Oz”, and “The Run Away of Oz.” Yet some of his best work was done for other books, periodicals, and newspapers.” Sincerely, Jory Neill Mason See her page >
"Only recently has Neill slowly been recognized for what an extraordinary illustrator he was and maybe one of the finest of his generation." Michael Patrick Hearn, Baum Bugle, Spring 1994