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 Mary Engelbreit  (20th century)

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Lived/Active: Missouri      Known for: illustrator-children's books

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BIOGRAPHY for Mary Engelbreit
(St. Louis, Missouri)

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illustrator-children's books

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from "Cherish'd," an online catalogue of the artist's work:

Mary Engelbreit: A History of an American Artist

One of the worlds most celebrated greeting card artists, Mary Engelbreit,
has been dubbed the Norman Rockwell of the 90s by People Magazine. Her
unmistakable style a quintessentially American combination of wit and
nostalgia is dazzling in detail and color. With characters, sayings and scenes often springing directly from her observations and memories, Marys drawings dramatize familiar childhood perceptions. She continues to touch the hearts of millions each year with her wonderful illustrations and clever quirky quotes.

Inspired by her mothers childhood books of the 1920s and 1930s Mary
Engelbreit has put her heart into it since 1952. Mary Engelbreit is a real person, not a corporate character like Betty Crocker! Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Mary Engelbreit started drawing about the time she was old enough to hold a crayon. By the time she was 11 years old, she knew that she wanted to be an artist for the rest of her life. As a child she loved to
read and would draw pictures to go with whatever book she was reading.

Mary Engelbreit began by copying other artists, but before long she was
attempting illustrations on her own. When she was eight, she composed the essentials of the image of what has become her trademark alter ego, the bespectacled and sun-bonneted "Ann Estelle", named for her maternal grandmother.

For as long as she can remember she had always wanted to illustrate
childrens books. In 1977, with encouragement from her husband, Phil Delano, Mary Engelbreit took her portfolio to New York to try her luck at some well-known publishing houses. She received a "mild reception" from publishers.

A New York art director suggested that she should try designing greeting
cards. "I was kind of crushed," she recalls. She then realized how suitable the suggestion might be and there was a market for her illustrations.

After a period of free-lance work and fantasy art (castles, unicorns, dragons
and fantasy illustrations), Mary Engelbreit turned her attention to portraying the real-life experiences of children. She credits this change to the birth of her first son, Evan, in 1980. After working with another company, Mary began to market her own cards. At the time she decided to produce and sell her own line of greeting cards, Mary had a three-year-old son and she was pregnant with her second son, Wil.

In 1983, there were other opportunities for Mary Engelbreit to license her
artwork to manufacturers. She went back to New York City, but this time she took 12 cards with her to the National Stationary Show. Her young company attracted a lot of attention and immediately contracted with a publisher to license her artwork on calendars in return for a small royalty payment, a percentage of what the company sold of her calendars at wholesale.

By 1986, retail sales of Mary Engelbreits card designs had topped a million
dollars a year. Mary decided to license her greeting card company to Sunrise Publications, so that she could turn her attention on other outlets for her designs, rather than manage the printing and distribution of her cards herself. Mary Engelbreits business generated $100 million in retail sales in 1997 and 14 million Mary Engelbreit greeting cards are sold each year.

In the fall of 1996 Mary Engelbreit launched two major projects: the
publication of Mary Engelbreit: The Art and the Artist, pulling together the artists life story with scores of full-color reproductions of her favorite drawings; and a bimonthly magazine, "Mary Engelbreits Home Companion," which shares with its namesake an active but easy approach to decorating and home living, all in the artists trademark style.

Mary Engelbreits style is singularly her own, often duplicating simple
scenes of cozy homes and happy families. Her work is rendered in intricate detail with deep color, sincerity and a sense of humor and playfully sarcastic quotes that are a Mary Engelbreit trademark. She now has over 50 licensed manufacturers that produce more than 1,000 gifts and home accents which
include calendars, T-shirts, mugs, address books, stickers, rubber stamps and figurines that bears her art. She never imagined that it would get this big.

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