Thursday, March 31, 2011

Clotilde Embree Funk (1893-1991)

In observance of National Women's History Month, Indiana Illustrators presents an entry on a woman who not only illustrated books on history, but also lived a fair bit of it herself during her near century on earth.

Clotilde Embree Funk was born on June 25, 1893, in Princeton, Indiana, to a pioneer family of Huguenot origin. After attending local schools in Princeton, she set off for the Tudor School and the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, where she studied from 1911 to 1913. Her art career began in earnest when she moved to New York City in 1917 to live with her older sister Louise. Clotilde studied at the Cooper Union Art School (1917-1920) and worked as a freelance commercial artist, while Louise labored away as a fifteen-dollar-a-week fashion editor.

The two advanced their careers over the next decade, and by the early 1930s, change was in the works for both. Louise Embree wrote a biography of George Washington and submitted it to a New York publisher, accompanied by younger sister Clotilde’s sketches. In rapid order, Clotilde Embree married Claude Douglas Funk (a man she had known since third grade) while on vacation in her hometown of Princeton, the book was accepted, and Clotilde spent her honeymoon working on her illustrations. In 1931, she settled in Indianapolis to raise a family, and the following year, A Child’s Life of George Washington by Louise Embree came out. Clotilde Embree was off on a new career.

Over the next three decades, Clotilde illustrated more than sixty children’s books. She drew the pictures for some of the first in the “Childhood of Famous Americans” series published by the Bobbs-Merrill Company of Indianapolis. The illustrations for biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, and George Washington Carver (all by Augusta Stevenson) and Stephen Foster (by Helen Higgins) were hers. Clotilde’s other books included Cecilia’s Locket and her own favorite, To See the Queen (1954)

An injury to her wrist forced Clotilde to give up illustration in favor of painting in 1962. She studied under Martha Slaymaker, whom she called “the biggest influence on my later work.” Thereafter, she exhibited in Indianapolis and elsewhere and won several prizes for her work.

Clotilde Embree Funk died at age ninety-eight on November 10, 1991, in Noblesville, Indiana. She was a small woman with a great talent, and she loved children and drawing children.

Early in her career, Clotilde Embree Funk worked in silhouette, a seemingly simple form. However, the use of three silhouettes on this cover, each of a different color and depth, adds a level of sophistication.
To See the Queen (1954) was Clotilde's favorite among her books. Not long ago, I found a copy of her book at an antique mall. Now I can present the front and back covers and the full effect of Clotilde's drawing.

Text and captions copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley


  1. Nice post! I was wondering if you have any suggestions on where to find out more info on this artist. I have an illustration of hers & wanted to learn more about her work. Thanks!

    1. The New York Times just did a feature with a few photos and interesting details with her. Some of the facts and references coming from this page.