Wanda Gág Day!
Diaries and drawings by Wanda Gág
Wanda Gág, the noted children's author and fine-art print maker, first published this marvelous book in 1940. The bulk of it consists of excerpts from her diaries and was written from her fifteenth to her twenty-fourth year (about 1908 to 1917.) It also features many charming examples of her early (and some later) work. It is a unique and fascinating document. Wanda was an observant writer who was unafraid to bare her soul in chronicling her quest for maturity in Art and Life.
Growing Pains contains a wealth of information. Her nuanced observations on life in Minnesota in the pre-WWI era are unsurpassed. Her sometimes naive but always sincere views on courtship and dating are by turns quaint, endearing, and practical. The saga of keeping the family together after her father died and her mother succumbed to despair is inspiring. Her struggle to balance her internal self-concept with her outward appearance is the classic coming of age dilemma, expressed with the special joy and sadness inherent in youth. Her outlook on gender and ability is proto-feminist. Her struggles in her art studies is a great example to young artists of any era.
The diary ends as the war is starting and Wanda is getting ready to go take advanced studies in New York where she ultimately started her career. The diary stands on its own. Her later life, while also quite interesting(!) is not essential to the appreciation of this triumph. The book was a success when it was introduced and was re-published in 1984. There have many books about her and her family (her father Anton and her sister Flavia were also artists of note), most of these are aimed at children. None of them are as well-written nor are any as vital as Wanda's own scribbled diaries.
UPDATE: Much more on Wanda…