Born in New Ulm, Minnesota, Wanda Gág grew up hearing the fairy tales of her parents’ native Bohemia, in a household filled with music and literature.
Her father was an artist who supported the family by decorating houses and churches, and he encouraged her interest in art. She attended art school in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and won a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York in 1917.
Although first and foremost a printmaker (she had one-woman shows at the New York Public Library and the Weyhe Gallery, and was featured in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, New York during the 1930s and 1940s), her true fame rests with her children’s books.
Millions of Cats won the Newbery Honor Award in 1929, and The ABC Bunny was given the same honor in 1934.
Her art grew out of her Bohemian heritage, yet is distinctly her own, using bold, strong, lines and sinuous forms which make inanimate objects terrifyingly alive, and living creatures — such as her cats, her mice, and herself, whimsically engaging.
In his “Notes on the Spiral Press” Joseph Blumenthal remembered Wanda Gág.
Writing about the calendars they sent to friends of the press in the 1920s (each decorated with six woodcuts by young American printmakers), he recalled that “Wanda Gág made heroes of subjects in our printshop, to the dismay of our compositors and pressmen who thought wheels should really be round.”