Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Tale of Tasha Tudor's Letter

In 1996, Victoria was proud to have Tasha Tudor as an artist in residence. Together, Tasha and I agreed that she would create four watercolors, each depicting a different season, for the magazine's readers. We made prints of these delightful renderings available for purchase as each was created, and then all four in a set. We even created a Christmas tin at one point.

Tasha Tudor, the creator of many scenes from her Vermont farm life, is still very beloved for her books and her artwork. The marriage of Victoria and Tasha was a natural one--following on several wonderful stories in the magazine, including a Christmas with all the trimmings of the 19th century life she lived so faithfully.

When we began her residency in January, Tasha wrote me a letter--long hand, of course. It was also illustrated with the image of one of her cats, who had been naughty and stepped in the butter and then on to the writing paper. In true Tasha spirit, it was kind, lively, and very New England. Tasha wanted to be sure that I would give her enough time to do her assignments. After all, she reminded me, she did not just sit and create all day long. She had many chores to do about the farm and in my letter was a list of her responsibilities that is quite complete.

The watercolors came in a timely manner and were featured in the magazine throughout 1996. And so the readers experienced many of the enchantments of Tasha-land. Many bought the prints, and it was a very successful venture. In the end, Tasha received her original work back and I put the letter away with the memory of the experience.

Not long ago, the letter surfaced again, and I began to think that it should not be hidden away in a file in my office any longer. I began to search for a permanent place or archive for Tasha's illustrated letter to me. Recently, I found the proper place: The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. My correspondence with Stephanie Plunkett, curator, has been delightful. The museum has a collection of Tasha's illustrative work and often exhibits. (In fact, there is a traveling exhibition planned for 2012.) And so the letter is now in a place where others can enjoy the spirit of this remarkable woman that is in every word and line. Puss and the butter make it especially charming.

I minded Tasha and did give her ample time to create and she was so gracious to wish me a very happy 1996. It turned out to be so--and one of the years of the magazine that I especially admire all these years later. The prints have increased in value, as has the original artwork: One season sold a few years ago for $8500. Of course, it is not the monetary value that matters most, but the inspiration for Tasha to give us the seasons of her long life.

If you missed the features in Victoria, you can order cards online. There are two sets and I have a feeling you will only part with the cards for very special reasons.

10 comments:

  1. I was so glad to 'meet' Tasha Tudor in the Victoria magazine as those years ago. Enjoyed following her story in the various articles that the magazine published about her.

    Thanks for sharing more from Tasha's world.

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  2. I have a copy of The Secret Garden that is illustrated by Tasha Tudor which I found at a thrift store several years ago. The soft pastel drawings are the perfect addition to this lovley story.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of Tasha. I will look again at my collection of Victoria magazines to enjoy her artistry.

    Mary Jane

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  3. Thanks, as always, for sharing these backstage looks, Nancy. Just last night, I was re-reading the charming autumn tale of Tasha's work with pictures of her at her loom and gathering huge bouquets of goldenrod to dye her homespun cloth. What a glorious legacy she left behind and how lucky we all were to share in that, thanks to Victoria. I'm so glad you shared this and that you gave the letter to the museum. Generously done, dear lady!
    Love, Karen Marline

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  4. Oh, this post brings back so many wonderful memories of opening up an early issue of Victoria and reading about Tasha Tudor. I was so charmed! I would have loved to have the original Victoria with me during the past 10 months, which have been full of challenges for me and for those close to me. I have not recaptured the way I felt when I received and perused my monthly Victoria, especially when Tasha was featured!

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  5. I have long admired Tasha Tudor and do so remember the year when Victoria shared her with each of us. I had the honor of going to her farm right before she was to turn 90 years. I bought a set of those cards and have carefully given them away, saving my favorites for myself. She was a delight to meet and I was thrilled to acquire also several signed books, which I treasure. This year for the Christmas season I am hosting afternoon tea with the theme, Take Joy, A Tasha Tudor Christmas.

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  6. I so enjoyed those issues of Victoria. I think I even have one of those Christmas cookie tins from the magazine. What could be better than Victoria and Tasha? Have a lovely weekend!

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  7. I still have the tin you mention here and treasure it, along with the Victoria magazines in which Tasha Tudor was artist in residence. I already knew of Tasha and her work, but, through the magazine I learned of her lifestyle and I became a collector of all things Tasha. My husband surprised me for one of my birthdays and we spent a day on the Addams Family farm where Tasha gave us all an audience. It, as well as Victoria, will always hold a place of pleasant remembrances to me.
    I can not think of a more fitting home for your letter than the Norman Rockwell Museum. What can I say but thank you and "take joy".

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  8. Happily, my introduction to Tasha Tudor happened at a very early age... long before Victoria came into my life. Indeed, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of my mother reading me "The Secret Garden" in which her illustrations appeared. I also loved her illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses." She was probably a large part of the earliest inspiration for my artistic inclinations. I have a number of her books, and I also have the book "Drawn From New England" by her daughter, Bethany, which tells the story of her life and her artwork. She was a true pioneer in many senses of the word and an inspiration in both how she lived her life and the excellence with which she did her writing and artwork. She was a true American treasure, and this is a wonderful story you have given us, Nancy. I well remember her work and prints offered in Victoria's pages... just another sign that the creators of Victoria were true kindred spirits. I am planning a trip to the northeast for next summer and would love to try to fit in a visit to the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I'd love to see that letter in person!

    Christi

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  9. I've loved Tasha Tudor's work since childhood, and consider her one of my earliest inspirations! I remember very well the year she was Artist in Residence at Victoria, and am sure I still have those issues somewhere. Thank you for the reminder - I must dig them out!

    On another note, what a delight to discover your blog! I've been a fan of the magazine since it began, and was active on the old Victoria message boards at women.com and ivillage (registered on the new boards too, although not as active as I'd like). I'll definitely be bookmarking your blog. :)

    ~ Carolee

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