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May Gibbs

Portrait of a woman. In the bottom right hand corner are the handwritten words 'May Gibbs' in a circle
May Gibbs, 1916. National Library of Australia vn4583514

Artist, illustrator and author

May Gibbs’s gumnut babies first appeared on the cover of the Lone Hand magazine in January 1914. Within months, they featured on calendars and postcards and, from 1916, in a series of booklets that were both a critical and a commercial success. The Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was published shortly before the war ended, and became an Australian classic.

Gibbs drew her inspiration from the flora and fauna of the Australian bush. Her detailed drawings and gentle humour created a magical world that brought joy to children and adults at home, and to soldiers on the front.

A colour drawing of gumnut babies captioned 'We're still alive and kicking!'
Postcard designed by May Gibbs, 1914–18. National Museum of Australia
A colour drawing depicting two gumnut babies kissing and a poem titled 'OFF TO THE WAR'. The poem reads 'Goodby my little Gum Blossom / And don't you fret for me / We'll soon be back together / In the old Gum Tree'
Postcard designed by May Gibbs, 1914–18. National Museum of Australia

'In thousands every week now, the whimsical cards and other art productions from Miss Gibbs’s prolific brush and pen are being sent to our boys in the trenches, and each breathes a message redolent of home as no more serious mementos could.'

The Sun (Sydney), March 1917

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