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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article provides a model of how to analyze picture books. Situating the discussion of Wanda Gág's iconic Millions of Cats (1928) it demonstrates ways in which Gág's use of folk motifs speaks to the tension between atavism and industrial capitalism at the heart of modernist cultural production. This book was a fitting breakthrough effort for Gág as a popular artist and visual–verbal storyteller. It is a modernist folktale and a text that formally and thematically influenced the twentieth-century picture books which followed. Its rustic setting—the cottage of the generic “very old” couple, a verdant summer landscape of leafy trees and cumulus clouds, and not a skyscraper or machine in sight—nods to Old World landscapes and fairy tales familiar to many transatlantic immigrants. In addition, it imitates an often-retold folktale of an earlier century, even though it is of twentieth-century vintage.

Keywords: Millions of Cats, Wanda Gág, picture books, atavism, industrial capitalism

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