Happy International Women’s Day! Celebrate with us by learning more about the celebrated natural history and children’s book illustrator, Margaret Senior (1917-1995).
Margaret Senior OAM Life and Work
Born and raised in London, Senior began her working life designing sets and costumes for small London theatres. In 1939, she moved to Australia, to the coast of Warringah, NSW, with her husband. It is a region that likely inspired both her art practice and love of nature.
She began to have success as an illustrator in the 1950s illustrated many children’s books through the 50s and 60s, including the Australia Book, which was written by Eve Pownall and won the Children’s Book of the Year Award in 1952. Senior’s ability was not limited to illustration; she was a master visual storyteller and created delightful narrative panels in works such as The story of Kurri Kurri, Australia’s animals, and Bush haven animals: and Australian picture story.
N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Service
Senior also worked closely with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, producing a series of iconic posters (which were initially produced for the NSW Fauna Protection Panel,1948-1967) to promote the protection of Australia’s unique flora and fauna. She also illustrated the diseases of plants in 1964, which are still used in publications produced by the NSW Department of Primary Industries today. Read more about her collaboration with them on the NSW Department of Primary Industries website.
The Margaret Senior Archive
The Library’s Special Collections holds a large collection of Senior’s original artworks, including children’s book illustrations. These provide evidence for her artistic process, showing registration marks, peg holes, handwritten numbering, and notes. Senior was proficient across a range of media with her finished work completed using oil pastels, gouache, graphite, and watercolour.
Senior’s illustrations have brought awareness of and inspiration to preserve and sustain our natural heritage. She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her services to art and conservation.
The 2023 Exhibition
An exhibition celebrating Senior’s work opens at the Library on 8th March 2023 and features a selection of her artworks and publications with a focus on the much-loved NSW Parks and Wildlife posters, contextualised with the original works.