Petra Mathers (b. 1945) is a self-taught artist who uses simple shapes to create her own distinctive folk-art style. German born, she moved to the U.S. as a young adult and settled in Oregon, where she still lives. Mathers has illustrated more than 40 children’s books, including her popular series about Lottie, an amiable chicken. Her animal characters demonstrate both compassion and humor, their foibles and friendships serving as metaphors for human bonds.
The Museum’s collection includes over 500 original works by Mathers, all generously donated by the artist. In 2019, Mathers returned to The Carle to hand letter text from her books on all her illustrations, which is her preference. The Carle has honored Mathers with two exhibitions, Petra Mathers: Lottie’s New Beach Towel (2004) and Petra Mathers: Lottie’s New Friend (2009).
When Lottie makes friends with the elegant Dodo, her new neighbor from Germany, her old buddy Herbie grows jealous. It is a feeling familiar to children everywhere. Mather’s illustration anticipates the stability of friendship as Herbie and Lottie visually balance each other in the boat as they make room for one more.
The 18th-century nonsensical nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle” is arguably one of the most famous. Mathers paints her interpretation in gentle watercolors.
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.