At the beginning of the 20th century, one woman captivated generations of Australian children with her enchanting depictions of fairies: Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. Her rapid rise to fame and subsequent decline chart the difficult path to recognition many female artists faced during this era. It also reflects changing artistic tastes and a subject matter often dismissed as trivial.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1888, into an artistic family, she published her first book, Mollie’s Bunyip, at 16. Many more books were to follow! She often collaborated with family and illustrated stories written by her sister and husband, Annie Rattray Rentoul and Grenbry Outhwaite, respectively. Her children, Robert, Anne, Wendy, and William, often served as models for her magical illustrations!

She gained popularity first in her beloved Australia and then worldwide with her exquisite hardbound books featuring black-and-white pen drawings and full-color illustrations of whimsical characters amidst nature. These books were not only meant to be collectible but also to serve as fine gifts. (Her book, Fairyland, was even gifted to a young Princess Elizabeth, the future queen!) And guess what? We have a handful of these first-edition books in our vast library of vintage illustrations! Want to see the source material that inspired our reproductions? Let's peek inside some of these books!

Here's her section in our library! Credited as and sometimes signing her work as Ida Rentoul, I.S.R., I.R.O., and I.S.R.O., she settled on Ida Rentoul Outhwaite after her marriage.

First, let's open The Enchanted Forest, published in 1921 and written by Grenbry Outhwaite. The tale follows Anne, a young girl who, after being thrown from her horse, is guided by her tame rabbit, Potty. By nightfall, Potty transforms into his fairy form, leading her through the enchanted forest. It's an enchanting journey through Anne's familiar woodland, revealing a side she's never encountered. She encounters talking animals, more fairies, witches, and goblins along the way!

See our Fairy Dress Shop Greeting Card here!
Fairy and Fairy Baby - Fairies Greeting Card
See our Fairy and Fairy Baby Greeting Card here!
Little Witch Riding Bat - Witches Greeting Card
See our Little Witch Riding Bat Greeting Card here! 
Fairy Playing Pipes to Animals - Fairies Greeting Card
See our Fairy Playing Pipes to Animals Greeting Card here!

Let's next delve into The Little Green Road to Fairyland, a 1922 masterpiece written by Annie R. Rentoul. The sisters' collaborative storytelling prowess is revered in their native Australia; this fantastical tale was adapted into a ballet of the same name, featuring exquisite original music. This adaptation solidified their legacy as esteemed contributors to whimsical literature and art!

Frog & Fairy Talking - Fairies Greeting Card
See our Frog & Fairy Talking Greeting Card here!
Bubble Fairy With Tulip - Encouragement Greeting Card
See our Bubble Fairy With Tulip Greeting Card here!

The Little Fairy Sister (1923), crafted in collaboration with her husband, Grenby, unfolds a genuine fairy tale depicting Bridget's enchanting adventures among the wee folk. Along her journey, she encounters an array of delightful creatures: the Dragon-fly, the Kookaburra, the Lizard, the Teddy Bears, the Pelican, and, of course, the Fairies! Additionally, she befriends the Mannikins, the Merman, and other mystical beings.

Fairy Circle - Fairies Greeting Card
See our Fairy Circle Greeting Card here!
A Fairy and a Bird Embracing - Fairies Greeting Card
See our A Fairy and a Bird Embracing Greeting Card here!

Let’s finish this tour with a highly sought-after collectible, Fairyland (1926), which showcases exquisite illustrations of dainty sprites alongside images of kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, and other creatures native to Australia. This collaborative masterpiece, crafted by the trio of family members—Ida, her sister, and her husband—is one of her most lavish works, boasting dozens of graceful and imaginative illustrations, including nineteen in full color!

Witch Taking Flight - Witches Greeting Card
See our Witch Taking Flight Greeting Card here!
Fairy With Crystal Orb - Fairies Greeting Card
See our Fairy With Crystal Orb Greeting Card here!
During her lifetime, Outhwaite published over 60 books similar to the ones featured here! In the 1920s and 30s, she held numerous solo exhibitions across Europe and Australia while illustrating her books, advertising images, comic strips, and more. She mostly retired from her art career following World War II, as she tragically lost both of her sons in action, and the fairy trend declined in the face of public sorrow.

Despite the challenges and changing tastes of the times, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's legacy as a pioneering illustrator endures. We hope you've enjoyed "meeting" her in this manner and the behind-the-scenes look at our extensive illustration library. This just scratches the surface of the products we offer featuring her art! Check them all out—there will definitely be more to come!
See our entire Ida Rentoul Outhwaite Collection here! 
a photo of a young Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

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