Design & Make

A Brief Bio: Tasha Tudor

by Rebecca McCusker February 04, 2019
ReadA Brief Bio: Tasha Tudor Photo by Andrea Tummons

The information below was sourced from the research of Jeanette Chandler Knazek, Consulting Curator for the Tasha Tudor Society and Tasha Tudor & Family in Brattleboro and Marlboro, VT, respectively. We thank them for preserving Tasha Tudor’s heritage. 

The careful, exquisite watercolors of Tasha Tudor celebrate the quiet moments of rural life. Depictions of children pulling sleds through the snow, of birds on tree branches, and of gentle garden scenes evoke an appreciation for the “old way.”

Tasha Tudor was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 28, 1915, as Starling Burgess, but her father soon re-christened her “Natasha” after the heroine in the Russian novel “War and Peace.”

Tasha’s parents were distinguished and accomplished business people who were friends with many well-known names at the time. According to Tasha Tudor Society and Tasha Tudor & Family archives, Tasha fell in love with gardening as young as age four. It is reported that she visited Alexander Graham Bell’s home in Maryland, where she was struck by the beauty of his rose gardens. At once, she vowed that she would become a gardener when she grew up—a dream she would keep with a fierce devotion.

When she was nine years old, her parents divorced, and she went to live with her mother in Redding, Connecticut. Here, she grew a deeper appreciation for the arts and living with the land. During her teenage years, she became a member of 4H, where she learned the skills that would later allow her to run her own homestead. She grew her own flax, spun the yarn, and wove the fabric to make her own clothes. Her excellent canning skills were displayed at the Eastern States Expedition in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her made-from-scratch oatmeal bread recipe won first prize at the Danbury Fair in Connecticut.

Her love for homesteading and “the old way” inspired her art. During this time, she created a homemade, unpublished book, “New England Wild Flowers,” that consisted of large, detailed illustrations of various flowers she discovered around the fields and meadows of Connecticut.

In 1938, at the age of 23, Tasha married Thomas L. McCready Jr., and while living in her mother’s Redding, Connecticut, home, she gave birth to two children, Bethany and Seth.

A career in illustration, inspired by rural life

Tasha launched her illustration career with the publication of her first children’s book, “Pumpkin Moonshine,” with the Oxford University Press. In 1942, she began designing greeting cards for Herbert Dubler, Inc., and two years later she illustrated “Mother Goose,” which snagged a Caldecott Honor for 1945.

Throughout her career, she would illustrate many iconic children’s books, including”Fairy Tales from Hans Christian Andersen”, “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” “The Secret Garden,” “A Little Princess,” “The Wind in the Willows,” and “Little Women,” among many others. Her gentle illustrations brought a sense of calm to each story they touched.

Her work has also been displayed prominently and celebrated among the art world. According to Tasha Tudor & Family, her watercolors from “The White Goose” were displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 1943 Christmas season. Her artwork has also appeared at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and in other art expeditions across America, Europe, and Japan.

Savoring the slow life in an old New England farmhouse

Her success in illustration made it possible to achieve her dream of living on a farm in the New England countryside. After giving birth to her son Thomas in 1945, she moved with her family to a large farm in Webster, New Hampshire, where she then gave birth to a daughter, Efner. Here, her art continued to capture the beauty of rural New England life: of her children in the gardens, of the chickens and geese, of the rolling hills, and of her beloved corgi puppies.

She encouraged her children to work in the gardens, to milk the goats, to tend the livestock, and to even put on their own puppet shows. She celebrated a simpler time—one of warm kitchen hearths, made-from-scratch recipes, and homegrown flowers that ended up on the kitchen table. Her life stands as a reminder to live with intention and to draw inspiration from simple, everyday moments.

To read more in depth about the life of Tasha Tudor, visit Tasha Tudor – The Woman, and if you ever find yourself in and around Vermont, we highly suggest taking a day trip to Tasha’s Garden and Homestead. According to their website, only 15 tours are offered per year.

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