O my Luve's like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June
Enchanting, dream-like, and romantic, American illustrator Zula Kenyon's early 20th century portraits offer up a soft, supple, and genteel look at the Edwardian woman. This original pastel on canvas illustration dates to 1914 and features a brunette beauty with milky-white skin draped in a pellucid gossamer shawl as she clutches a bouquet of blossoming roses to her breast. This piece was created for The Gerlach-Barklow Calendar Company out of Joliet, Illinois and was first published as part of their 1915 calendar line.
Kenyon began doing artwork for The Gerlach-Barklow Calendar Company of Joliet shortly after it was founded in 1907. Due to the popularity of Kenyon’s illustrations, she was soon given an exclusive contract with them. She worked in a studio at the calendar company in Joliet for around 12 years before moving out west, due to health problems. Kenyon completed more than 200 calendar illustrations for Gerlach-Barklow. Many were of pretty women holding bouquets of flowers. Kenyon continued producing artwork for calendar images into the late 1930s.
This illustration comes from the collection of esteemed illustration art collector Norman Platnick.
This pastel shows scattered surface wear including soiling along the top margin, several separate scattered punctures in the canvas and light surface soiling. It is framed behind glass in a beautiful period frame with gesso ornamentation of gilded dragonflies, butterflies, and leaves.
Included in the sale are two published examples of this illustration: a 1919 calendar and an advertising hand fan.
Zula Kenyon's Scottish influence
The title of the piece, "My Luv's Like a Red, Red Rose", comes from the 1794 song in Scots by Robert Burns of a similar name. The poem in its entirety reads:
O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in june;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune;
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry;
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.
The song is highly evocative, including lines describing rocks melting with the sun, and the seas running dry. Burns may have been inspired by the concept of deep time put forward a few years earlier by geologist James Hutton in his Theory of the Earth in 1789. Hutton and Burns were contemporaries, and would have mixed in similar circles in Edinburgh.
About the artist: Zula Kenyon
Zula Kenyon was an illustrator and studied under Frederick Freer at the Art Institute in Chicago. Although she completed some early work for various companies, she began doing artwork for the Gerlach-Barklow Calendar Company of Joliet Illinois shortly after it was founded in 1907.
However, in those days calendar company customers were reluctant to purchase images created by a women, and the company asked her to only sign her early work "Kenyon". But she soon signed an exclusive contract with Gerlach-Barklow Calendar company due to her work being so successful for its calendar images and sales.
Zula mainly used pastels and often would grind her own colors in order to obtain the quality she desired for her work. She worked in a studio at the calendar company in Joliet, Illinois for around 12 years before moving out west due to health problems. She continued producing artwork for calendar prints up into the late 1930's. Zula created Gerlach-Barklow's most popular calendar series the Bluebird Series from 1926 to 1932 and again in 1939. Miss Kenyon completed more than 200 calendar subjects for the Gerlach-Barklow Calendar Company.
When she first moved to San Diego in the 1920's, Miss Kenyon lived in a home overlooking one of the city parks. She later moved near the mountains near El Cajon, Ca. where she lived with her housekeeper. Her home was a gathering place for local artists while in San Diego. Pneumonia was her immediate cause of death at age 74 even though her health had been poor for several years.
The Legacy of Norman Platnick
In his New York Times obituary, Norman Platnick’s son Will said that his father had three passions in life, his wife Nancy, spiders, and collecting.
Few individuals have the chance to leave a mark like Norm’s in even one field, let alone two. But Norm managed to be both a celebrated scientist, and one of the most influential lay historians of illustration art.
Under his imprint Enchantment Ink, Norm researched, wrote, and published collectors guides to artists like Rolf Armstrong and Earl Christy. We at Grapefruit Moon Gallery rely on these books in our work, and they are now all freely available as PDFs through the Enchantment Ink website.
Norm’s expertise was a gift, his friendship was a treasure, and his legacy is immeasurable. He is missed.