About Our Cover Image
Late 19th century Chicago artist Frederick Warren Freer’s painting Mother and Child Reading graces our program cover for the 39th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. It is the perfect image for our 2022 theme, The Children’s Hour, celebrating books for young readers and the people who love them. You’ll find the image on our posters and other material as well.
Freer was a popular artist and teacher in his day but after his death in 1908 the artist fell into obscurity until the late 1970s, when there was renewed interest in his work. Freer was a wonderfully diverse artist, who worked in oil and watercolor as well as etchings and pastels. His early training was at Munich’s Royal Academy, and so much of his work reflected that school of art. He also worked in impressionist styles, especially bright, colorful landscapes.
Although Freer worked in multiple media and style, he is best known for his portraits of beautiful women of the Victorian age. His wife, Margaret, also was an artist, and probably his most frequent model. The Freers children also appeared in his work. The Freers had six children and an unnamed daughter who died in infancy.
Art scholars think the subjects for this painting, which was originally known as Nursery Rhymes, were his wife and their youngest daughter, Catherine, who was a toddler when she died. The original is at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama. It was part of a huge collection donated by Margaret Freer after her husband’s death.
Ephemera collectors may be interested to know that Frederick Warren Freer was also an illustrator. His work can be found in James Russell Lowell’s The Vision of Sir Launfal (1888), novelist George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876) and poet Tom Hood’s Fair Ines.
The title for the 39th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, The Children’s Hour, is borrowed from the beloved poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It first appeared in print in the September 1860 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. You can read The Children’s Hour here.