Rackham Up

I have to wonder why it’s generally only children’s fiction that has illustrations these days. I guess that’s part of why books marketed for younger audiences are often more impressive as far as appearance goes. Sure, there are plenty of good books with bad illustrations or none at all, but well-drawn pictures can make a good book truly memorable. Now, I can’t draw for anything, but I respect people who can, especially if they develop their own interesting styles. And having been reading a fair number of fairy tales recently, one illustrator I’ve come across quite frequently is Arthur Rackham, who lived in England from 1867 through 1939. Works he illustrated included collections of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Aesop, Mother Goose (yeah, I know that’s not a real person, but parallel structure is important), and others.

I remember coming across some of his drawings for a narrative of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and he had his own set of pictures for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as well.

His style is quite recognizable, being quite fanciful and detailed as well as rather rustic. There’s kind of a chaotic beauty to much of his work, if that makes any sense. According to his Wikipedia entry, he achieved his style by starting with outlines, then filling in details, and finally putting in ink lines and removing the pencil. He’s reported to have had a “wide and elfish grin” and to have used himself as a model for some of his fairy beings.

So what’s the point of this post? I guess it’s mostly just to acknowledge my appreciation for Rackham’s illustrations.

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This entry was posted in Art, Fairy Tales, Lewis Carroll, Mythology, Norse and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Rackham Up

  1. Illustrated novels– or rather, crosses between prose novels and graphic novels– are starting to become more common in YA again. It’s possible the trend will move on up to adult lit too, like vampires and dystopian lit, but then again that’s what makes YA and children’s so great– they’re more likely to play loose and free with formats, whereas adult lit seems to be more clearly stuck in What We’re Already Doing. I think graphic novels are the only format that seems to be open to illustrated fiction for adults.

    • Nathan says:

      Yes, it is a little odd that graphic novels are gaining in popularity while regular prose novels with illustrations are still not particularly common. It’s like everything not written for young children has to go all or nothing in terms of pictures.

  2. I agree, a great artist, I’m off to google him now. Great post.

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