18 pen-and-ink drawings, ranging in size from 5-1/8 x 6-5/8 inches to 14-5/8 x 7-3/8 inches
This collection of original illustrations and chapter head- and end-pieces was created by Edward A. Darby for Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion. Compiled by workers of the Work Projects Administration’s state-sponsored Virginia Writers’ Project (1940), the book was initiated as one in a series of state guides begun in 1935 under the Federal Writers Project and was designed to give work to writers, editors, historians, and researchers.
All thirteen of the drawings used in Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion can be found in this collection of lighthearted, optimistic, and idealized images. The detailed artwork depicts iconic landmarks, historic sites, and symbols of the early-20th-century countryside that would be recognizable to many Virginians today. Also included in the collection are five additional drawings that do not appear in the guide. They represent an imagined Virginia, where tidewater monuments stand at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and where oxcarts and buggies share the landscape with speeding trains, automobiles, and airplanes.
Arrangement and access:
The collection is arranged in a single series, corresponding to the order in which the illustrations appear in Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion, followed by the five remaining drawings.
Failed insurance salesman Dugald Stewart Walker (1883–1937), a native Richmonder and self-styled eccentric very much in artistic and cultural sympathy with the British aesthetes of a generation before, studied drawing at the University of Virginia and the New York School of Art, and was by the late 1920s internationally renowned as both a fine artist and popular illustrator of children’s books. While his gallery work was praised in the museums of London, Paris, and Rome, Walker’s elegant grotesqueries fared poorly back home in Depression-era Richmond—though he was keenly sought after as a bookplate designer by the Richmond and New York elite.
With striking black-and-white prints reminiscent of the work of Aubrey Beardsley but distinctly his own, Walker created a whimsical, slightly sinister, and technically precise “Once Upon a Time” world of pleasure gardens, peacocks, satyrs, clowns, archers, and mounted knights. Often in his bookplates the highly personalized iconography of client preference is brought to bear on quaint themes and high modernist design. In the plate for the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, for example, delicately rendered chemistry beakers positioned above a “window” become, in their self-mirroring symmetry, a kind of ornamental pediment. In another plate, otherwise naturalistic boxers, poised for battle, become pilaster-like ornaments on either side of a monumental baroque doorway through which lovers can be glimpsed embracing in a glade. Perhaps the strangest item in this collection … more