Following on from last week here are some more illustrations from England in the period of 10-15 years on either side of the First World War. This time the artist is Arthur Rackham. When I was young my Mum and Dad used to read Jack the Giant Killer to me. The book had been my Mum’s when she was a girl. I loved these stories and the illustrations, by Arthur Rackham which were both terrifying and exciting for a little boy and have made a lasting impression on me. Books illustrated by him have become collector’s items and very expensive. Here is one benefit of the internet. Having not seen anything by him for years (somehow that original family copy was lost) I googled him and found hundreds of images online – more than I had ever been aware of.
Arthur Rackham was born in 1867 and died of cancer in 1939. He had a formal art training in London and his work really started to be noticed at the turn of the last century. He was admired internationally and won gold medals at international art exhibitions and expositions, in Barcelona and Milan for example. You may not have heard of the name, but there is a good chance that you have seen some of his illustrations. As well as children’s books such the one already mentioned, he created the well known images of Peter Pan, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Wind in the Willows (top left) and many, many fairy tales for children. Even if the image that comes to mind when you think of these stories from animated film, very often the basic image that the later animators used for the movie is drawn from Rackham’s original depiction.
In this period, illustration was treated almost as high art. Very expensive, leather bound editions of books would be produced as collectors items. Clearly these collectors were usually not young children and so it was natural for the subjects of such editions to be extended to the publication of illustrated poetry and stories that adults would be interested in. For example he illustrated stories from Wagners’ Ring Cycle, Shakespeare’s plays and John Milton’s Comus.
His method seems to have been one of doing detailed drawings in pencil first and then inking in and erasing the pencil lines. He then builds up tonal contrast with multiple washes of (Read More)