Mary and Conrad Buff

Mary and Conrad Buff
Mary & Conrad Buff

Conrad Buff
August 31, 1967(1967-08-31) - March 11, 1975(1975-03-11)
Speicher, Switzerland

Mary Buff
April 10, 1890(1890-04-10) - 1970
Cincinnati, Ohio
Notable work(s) The Apple and the Arrow
Magic Maize
Big Tree
Notable award(s) Newbery Medal Honour
1954 Magic Maize
1952 The Apple and the Arrow
1947 Big Tree

Mary Buff (April 10, 1890 - 1970)[1] and Conrad Buff (August 31, 1967 - March 11, 1975)[1] were married childrens novel writers. Between 1937 and 1968, they collaborated on both text and illustrations to produce fourteen books. They were nominated for a Newberry award three times and had a profound impact on childrens literature in the middle of the 20th centurary


Personal life

Conrad Buff

Conrad Buff was born in the village of Speicher, Switzerland.[1] Buff followed in his father’s footsteps and grew interest in sketching and art at an early age. At the age of 14 in 1900, Buff enrolled in the School of Arts and Crafts located close to home in St. Gallen, Switzerland.[2] By 1903 Buff was running out of money and felt that art school was not for him, he made the decision to leave Switzerland and head to America by 1904 in hopes of a more inspiring lifestyle. As Buff was traveling West through America, he went through a number of different jobs, including painting, shepherding, washing dishes, and baking.

By 1907, Conrad Buff had made it to Los Angeles with no assets to his name and began to make an income through painting houses. At this time, Buff was able to purchase a piece of land and continued to paint in his free time. Between 1910 and 1913, he attended the Art Students League of Los Angeles, but again he was not fulfilled with the institution. He then attended night classes at Los Angeles High School where he painted a series of many small oil portraits that were never shown publicly but were unlike anything that was seen at the time. At this time, Buff started to continue painting many landscape paintings which were very popular at this time in California.[2]

In the 1920’s, Buff’s art became admired and he was began winning many prizes for his work.[1] In 1922, Conrad Buff was married to Mary Jordan Marsh, who he later had two sons with.[3] Mary and Conrad Buff together wrote and illustrated children’s books from 1937 and 1968, followed by Conrad Buff’s death on March 11th, 1975.[4]

Mary Buff

Mary Buff, formerly known as Mary Marsh was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 10th, 1890.[5] Mary had an early interest in arts and poetry but only continued to study art.[3] She studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and at the Cincinnati Art Academy and received her bachelor’s degree in Kansas at Bethany College.[1] Mary then lived in Alboin, Idaho and in the 1920’s settled in Los Angeles.[5] In 1922 she married Conrad Buff. Mary was the assistant curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her income was large enough to allow her husband, Conrad Buff, to paint fulltime.[6] After getting wed to Conrad Buff, Mary gave up her joy of painting to write children`s books with him.[5] Mary Buff then passed in 1970.[3]


Conrad Buff’s earliest artwork traces back to small landscape oil paintings that were sold for 50 cents each in 1905. Throughout the 1910’s, Buff began to use a cross-hatching technique, similar to the broken brush stroke. His paintings became abstract; some of the painting was defined while other areas would be rough and not as detailed. His style was different from other landscape painters as he did not paint the settings as accurately and his paintings were not identical to the landscape that he was interpreting. From the 1920’s to the 1930’s Buff began painting murals. These were murals of architecture of buildings and large spaces. During this time some of the murals he produces were the Southern California Edison Company building in Los Angeles, the First National Bank of Phoenix, the William Penn Hotel in Whittier, and the Guarantee Building and Loan Association in Los Angeles. In the 1930’s, Buff painted several lithographs, copies of other paintings. His work won many awards in exhibitions.[4] By 1936, Conrad Buff started illustrating children books with his wife Mary Buff. Conrad Buff continued illustrating until 1968, creating several books during this time period.[6]
Mary Buff was a teacher in Montana, Idaho, and Hollywood prior to being an author.[1] She was also an artist and the assistant curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when she married Conrad Buff in 1922. In 1936, Mary Buff began writing books and published 14 books with her husband.[3]


The body of work produced by Mary and Conrad Buff has nature as a recurrent theme. Stories in the books they have written and illustrated such as Dash & Dart[7] along with Forest Folk[8] feature nature as the primary focus. Numerous oil paintings by Conrad Buff are of landscapes, of which include a notable landscape portrait titled “Canyon Land.” This painting was sold at auction for $77,000 in 2003.[9] The landscape portraits created by Buff where distinct from those of his peers, as he used a cross-hatching technique along with pointillist style.[6]

Notable works

Mary and Conrad Buff worked together to publish 14 books in total. Mary was the story teller and mainly wrote the stories where Conrad used his creative hand to illustrate the books.[3] Their most notable book The Apple and the Arrow is still used in schools throughout Canada today. It is suggested for Grade 4 readers and on the back of the book is written “The year is 1291, and Walter is the twelve-year-old son of William Tell, the greatest bowman in the land of Uri. Walter lives happily in the remote heights of the Alpine Mountains, caring for his family’s goat herd and practicing his marksmanship in the hopes of making his father proud. But as the end of the year approaches, Walter’s peaceful life is shaken as his country enters a revolution, and Walter must carry a secret that could threaten the life of the father he loves so dearly. More than seven hundred years have passed since the day Walter stood in the marketplace balancing an apple on his head while the Austrian tyrant Gessler commanded Walter’s father, William Tell, to take aim at the apple with his great crossbow. The dramatic tale of William’s arrest and escape and the daring revolt of the Swiss against the Austrians has become a legend around the world.”[10] This book was nominated for a Newberry Award in 1952

Cultural impact

Mary and Conrad Buff have been recognized as significant contributors to American children’s literature. The awards their work has garnered include the Newbery medal honours and the Caldecott medal honours. Mary and Conrad were awarded the Newbery medal honours on three occasions, in 1947, 1952 and 1954.[11] The Buff’s received Caldecott medal honours in 1943 for their book Dash & Dart. Conrad Buff left his mark on more than just the world of children’s literature, as he was commissioned to paint architectural murals in Los Angeles and Phoenix.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "USM de Grummond Collection - MARY AND CONRAD BUFF PAPERS". 2002-05-07. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  2. ^ a b "Taos Painters: Conrad Buff (1886-1975)". Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Mary and Conrad Buff". Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  4. ^ a b "Conrad Buff (1886-1975)". 1975-03-11. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  5. ^ a b c "Mary Marsh - Artist, Fine Art, Auction Records, Prices, Biography for Mary (Buff) Marsh". Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  6. ^ a b c d Arteaga, Sandra (2010) Sullivan Goss, Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  7. ^ Buff, M., & Buff, C. (1942). Dash & Dart. New York : Viking Press.
  8. ^ Buff, M., & Buff, C. (1962). Forest Folk. New York: Viking Press.
  9. ^ "Conrad Buff Highest Auction Records". Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  10. ^ Huchet, Claire. "The Apple and the Arrow (9780618128099): Conrad Buff: Books". Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  11. ^ "Newbery Award Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-17. 

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