One of the world’s best-selling artists died on December 28, aged 98. Annie Vallotton wasn’t famous or fêted but her illustrations, published in the Good News Bible, have helped make the Bible’s message accessible to countless people around the world.
Born in Switzerland in 1915, Annie Vallotton began her artistic career by painting frescoes on the walls of World War II refugee camps. She also played an active role in the French resistance.
Her work came to the attention of Bible translator, Eugene Nida, of the American Bible Society, who approached her in the early 1960s to ask her to illustrate the Good News Bible – a translation that uses simple language designed to make the Bible more accessible. She produced over 500 illustrations, which appear in the more than 140 million copies of the Good News Bible sold since 1966, meaning that her pictures have been printed at least 70 billion times. And that’s just in the English – her illustrations also appear in Bibles in dozens of other languages.
Ms Vallotton’s simple line drawings have become iconic and instantly recognisable to people of many different cultures and languages. They help bring to life the entire sweep of the biblical story and convey the whole gamut of human emotion – from the joyful woman who appears with the verse, ‘Choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:19), to the sorrowful image of the dying Christ (Luke 23:46).
“My aim is to make people want to read the Bible,” Ms Vallotton commented in an interview. “I have tried hard to make my illustrations…arouse interest in the reader and provoke questions in his mind, to make him apply the text to himself and to dip further into the text. In a word, I want them to help the text become more alive and intelligible.”
“Annie Vallotton never imagined that her simple sketches would reach around the world, helping people understand God’s Word and experience it’s life-changing message,” says Steve King, Acting President of the American Bible Society. “But her work as illustrator of the Good News Bible did just that.”
In recognition of Ms Vallotton’s immense contribution, last year United Bible Societies created The Vallotton Awards, which recognise the most creative examples of Bible publishing produced by Bible Societies.
Links to more articles on Ms Vallotton’s work: