Maria Louise Kirk

Maria Louise Kirk, illustrator (1860-1938)

The stars of this post are illustrations of relatively unknown illustrator Maria Louise Kirk, often signed as Maria L. Kirk, who was born in Lancaster, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 21 1860. She illustrated dozens of books, among which we can find many important ones, and I would like to present as many as possible.

Don’t expect to learn a lot about Maria Louise Kirk who died on her birthday 1938. She was schooled at School of Design for Women and Academy of Fine Arts (both Philadelphia), she exhibited in Philadelphia, where she got an award in 1894  and in Chicago, and she will be remembered by her illustrations for children’s books.

I would like to start with George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind and the so called simplified edition, rewritten by Elizabeth Lewis (1892-1958)  from 1904:

at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-1 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-2 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-3 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-4 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-5 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-6

Although technically well executed with cute characters and great sense for contrasts, these illustrations doesn’t exhibit so much life as illustrations by her more famous contemporary Jessie Wilcox Smith (who illustrated the very same book in ‘unabridged’ version). However the simplified edition of At the Back of the North Wind was also republished in 1909 and Maria Louise Kirk made six additional illustrations. I unfortunately managed to find only black and white copies, so I am presenting both as they are, the already seen plus the new six plus the cover with at least some colors.


at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-01 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-02 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-03 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-04 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-05 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-06 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-07 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-08 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-09 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-10 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-11 at-the-back-of-the-north-wind-bw-12

It’s interesting to see her work on another fantasy book by George Macdonald. These illustrations are from The Princess and Curdie, simultaneously published by J. B. Lippincott Company in Phildelhia and London in 1914.


princess-and-curdie-01 princess-and-curdie-02 princess-and-curdie-03 princess-and-curdie-04 princess-and-curdie-05 princess-and-curdie-06 princess-and-curdie-07 princess-and-curdie-08 princess-and-curdie-09 princess-and-curdie-10 princess-and-curdie-11 princess-and-curdie-12


Next series of illustrations is from Heidi. It’s a gift edition with many color illustrations from 1915.

heidi-inside-2 heidi-cover heidi-inside-1

There are exactly 14 illustrations by Maria Louise Kirk and it looks her style is very appropriate for idyllic situations in Alps. Pictures of Heidi and her friends are among her signature works.


This was not the only cooperation between Johanna Spyri and Maria L. Kirk. In 1921 she illustrated Spyri’s Mazli (it’s actually a with umlaut: Maezli) which is subtitled A Story of the Swiss Valleys and i suppose we already know what this book is about:

books-by-johanna-spyri spyri-johanna johanna-spyri-maezli-3 johanna-spyri-maezli-4 johanna-spyri-maezli-5 johanna-spyri-maezli-6 spyri-johanna-book

In 1914 The story of the Canterbury pilgrims, Frederick Joseph Harvey Darton’s adaptation of Chaucer’s famous Canterbur’y Tales was published. This is of course another edition of classic book aiming at younger audience. Maria L. Kirk made next four color illustrations.


Talking about younger audience, we can’t go without today almost forgotten, but in her times one of the bestselling authors. I am talking about Mary Louisa Molesworth (1839-1921). Some of the finest illustrators of the time illustrated her work and Marie Louise Kirk was no exception. Here we go with the famous The Cuckoo Clock, first published in 1877, but from 1914 edition:

the-cuckoo-clock-cover-mary-louisa-molesworth mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-1 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-2 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-3 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-4 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-5 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-6 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-7 mary-molesworth-the-cuckoo-clock-8

This old fairy tale about a girl living with two old aunts in a house with a magic cuckoo clock is not exactly what today’s children expect from the books, but it still posses a special charm and great insight about life in 19th century. What i find particularly interesting, are color pictures which are not very often at Miss Molesworth’s books. If ou would like to know more about her books illustrated by other authors, here is a link to Mary Molesworth.

Another beautiful set comes from Pinocchio, sometimes subtitled as The Story of a Puppet. This is De Luxe edition by J. B. Lippincott company with fourteen illustrations in full color (regular edition has only eight color plates) and decorations on all pages with text. There are four different decorations and of course a special end-paper:

endpaper decoration-1 decoration-2 decoration-3 decoration-4

Nice, huh? What about the illustrations?


I’ll stop for now, but there is more. Soon! O.K.?


4 thoughts on “Maria Louise Kirk

  1. Maria L. Kirk is one of my favorite illustrators. I especially love the covers she did for some of the L. M. Montgomery books.

  2. A few days ago my friend’s mother showed me the “Pinocchio” (1914) illustrated by Maria L. Kirk.
    I absolutely fell in love with her work. But when I saw her Gepetto, I almost lost it – I recognised… my uncle!!! 100% him! ….But how? He was born only in 1921 in Ukraine!
    I sent this pictire to his children and his sister and all of them said the same: it’s him!

    Dear topillustrations ))) Thank you so much for this article. Looking forward to hear more about Maria L. Kirk. And…do you think it’s possible to find out more about her “Pinocchio” work?

    Here is our dear Gepetto: …..

    • Sorry for my late response, I had to neglect work on this blog for month, because life happened (and it looks it will happen again). About your question – new sources of and about vintage books are popping up all the time, so I can only hope we’ll have an opportunity to grab some additional info about Maria Louise Kirk. In my opinion her work is too important to be forgotten.

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