Wanda Gág (1893-1946, American)

Wanda Gag with CatWanda Gág (1893-1946, American) was an artist, author, illustrator and translator best known for her book Millions of Cats. First published in 1928, it was awarded the Newberry Honor in 1929 and is the oldest American picture book still in print today.  

Born in Ulm, Minnesota to Czech immigrant parents, Gág showed early promise as an illustrator and story teller. After her father’s death when she was just 15, Gág continued her schooling and graduated high school in 1912. From 1912-1913 she taught school. In 1913, she attended The Saint Paul School of Art and then The Minneapolis School of Art. In 1917, Gág finished her first illustrated book commission. There after she attended the Art Students League of New York. In 1919, Gág started working as a professional illustrator.  Her winding lines that create form are her distinct trait.

She was given her first one-woman show in Weyhe Gallery in 1926 by Carl Zigrosser which led to many others. Gág was a Greenwich Village feminist, and her 1927 article These Modern Women: A Hotbed of Feminists was published in The Nation.

Wanda Gag in her studio with cat

Millions of Cats was inspired by a story that Gág had written to entertain the children of friends. It was published in 1928 and Millions of Cats remains on the New York Public Library’s list of 100 Greatest Children’s Books. Prior to Millions of Cats, illustrated books generally had text on the left page with pictures on the right. By integrating text with pictures and stretching illustrations across a double page, Gág became a pioneer in picture book formatting.

Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats Cover

Millions of Cats revolves around a simple plot of an old man and woman who live in a house surrounded by flowers. Both decide that the only thing missing is a “sweet fluffy cat”. So the old man goes off in search of a kitty. But instead of just one kitty, he finds “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.” Not able to choose just one, he brings all of them home, which causes numerous problems as one can imagine. The ending is rather gruesome with all the cats eating each other and leaving just one who only needs milk and love. Gág, a cat lover, used her own cat Noopy as inspiration.

Wanda Gag, Millons of Cats, 3

In 1946, Gág succumbed to lung cancer in New York City at age 53.

Today Gág is honored by the restoration of her childhood home in Ulm, Minnesota. In 1992, Millions of Cats was performed for a television series and narrated by James Earl Jones.  A bronze sculpture of Gág and one of her cats was erected in 2016 outside the Ulm public library.

Gág statue, New Ulm, Minnesota

Her works can be found in The National Gallery of Art, The British Museum, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Whitney Museum as well as other museums around the world.

Wanda Gag with Cat 2

 

Wanda Gag, Cats at the Window

 

 

Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats 1

 

 

Wanda Gag, Millons of Cats, 2

 

 

Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats, 4

 

 

Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats, 5

 

 

Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats, 6

 

 

Siesta, 1939 Wanda Gag

Siesta, 1939

 

 

Sleeping Cat, Wanda Gag

Sleeping Cat, 1937

 

 

Grandma’s Kitchen, 1931. Lithograph

 

Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2019 Laura Vocelle

Comments

  1. warren wilson says

    Fascinating woman, fascinating face too. European face fascinating.

  2. Wonderful art I didn’t know about. Enjoyed your article, as allways!😺💜😺💚😺💛😺💙😺💓

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