On November 1, 1926, author and illustrator Hilary Knight was born. Best known for illustrating the beloved protagonist of Kay Thompson's Eloise (1955), Knight has worked in a wide variety of genres over the course of his career. He has illustrated over 50 books and authored nine.
Artistic talent ran in Knight's family; his father, Clayton Knight, illustrated aviation books, while his mother, Katharine Sturges did book and fashion illustrations. Born in Hempstead, Long Island, Knight moved to Manhattan with his family when he was six. He still calls Manhattan home. Knight studied under Reginald Marsh and George Grosz at the Art Students League before joining the Navy. He served as a ship painter from 1944 to 1946, then returned to New York's Delahanty Institute to study theater design, architectural drafting, and interior design. Meanwhile, Knight made a living painting murals in private homes.
Knight got his start in the magazine industry. His first illustrations appeared in Mademoiselle in 1952. Soon after, he was published in House in Garden, Good Housekeeping, and Gourmet magazines. In 1955, he embarked on what was likely a career changing partnership with Kay Thompson. Their first endeavor, Eloise, was incredibly popular. They published three more Eloise books together: Eloise in Paris (1957); Eloise at Christmastime (1957); and Eloise in Moscow (1959). In 1956, CBS ran a live television adaptation of Eloise on Playhouse 90. Evelyn Rudie starred as Eloise. But the show did so poorly, Thompson vowed never to do another such adaptation.
Thompson and Knight also created another sequel, Eloise Takes a Bawth, which appeared in the fall 1964 catalog of Harper Books for Boys and Girls. However, Thompson soon after removed all Eloise books from print and decided not to publish the last one. The books weren't reprinted again until 1999, after Thompson's death. Their return to print was celebrated with an event for the "debutante of all debutantes" at the Plaza Hotel. In 2002, Eloise Takes a Bawth was finally published.
Though Knight is probably most renowned for his illustrations of Eloise, he's also designed greeting cards, record albums, and even posters for Broadway plays. His books have become favorites among readers and rare book collectors of all ages. Collectors look for not only first editions of his works, but also seek the lovely limited, numbered editions of Eloise books and Knight's adored Christmas Nutshell Library.