Anything painted directly, on the spot, always has a strength, a power, a lively touch that is lost in the studio. Your first impression is the right one. Stick to it and refuse to budge.
- Eugene Boudin
Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.
- Henri Rousseau


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Arthur Rackham

Posted by Charley Parker at 11:37 am

Arthur Rackham
British book illustrator Arthur Rackham, who was active from the late 1800′s to the 1930′s, was one of the all time great illustrators and one of my favorites. He was particularly noted for his illustrations of children’s books. Whatever he tackled, Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Rip van Winkle, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens…, Rackham would own it. His unique vision and amazingly strong images became an integral part of the experience of reading the story.

Of the many artists who have tried to illustrate Alice in Wonderland in the footsteps of the amazing Sir John Tenniel, Rackham is the only artist I can think who doesn’t disappear into Tenniel’s shadow like a Cheshire Cat fading into the gloom.

Rackham’s fairy tale worlds are sometimes steeped in gloom and mystery. His misty forests are inhabited by elves and goblins peering about twisted roots, massive gnarled trees, mushrooms, ferns and sinuous, tangled undergrowth. I think his fairy tale illustrations were one of the main starting points for modern fantasy illustration, influencing artists like Frank Frazetta and Roy Krenkel and the generations of fantasy artists behind them.

Rackham was a deft pen and ink artist and most of his paintings started as pen and ink drawings into which he worked layer after layer of transparent watercolor glaze, a painstaking method associated more with classical painting than modern illustration.

The Arthur Rackham Society site has a good selection of links to Rackham’s illustrations online (pop-up warning: Angelfire hosted site).

There is a nice selection of images from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens here.

There are complete facsimiles of his illustrated versions of Aesop’s Fables and English Fairy Tales available online as part of Project Gutenberg. (For the quickest view of the material, go to the “Format” section, choose “HTML”, Compression: “None” and look to the index of illustrations.)

Here is a beautiful set of Rackham’s Alice in Wonderland illustrations courtesy of good ol’ Doc Ozone.

The link I’m suggesting below is to a nice broad cross-section of Rackham’s work on the Art Passions site.

12 comments for Arthur Rackham »

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  1. Comment by Jennifer Segalini
    Wednesday, January 25, 2006 @ 11:45 am


    I am a huge fan of Rackham too! Are familiar with the work of Lisbeth Zwerger? She has done some beautifully original children’s books – among my favorite are The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. Rackham was an inspiration to Zwerger and you can certainly see his influence on her earlier work.
    Check her out – I would love to hear what you think.


  2. Comment by Charley Parker
    Wednesday, January 25, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    Thanks. I wasn’t familiar with her work. I’ve found some small reproductions (mostly book covers on bookstore sites) and her watercolors look enticing, particularly the illustrations for The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a web site with images large enough to really get a good look her paintings. I’ll keep looking around, but If you come across a site with large reproductions of her work, please let me know.

  3. Comment by Joel Zablow
    Friday, January 27, 2006 @ 7:44 pm

    There are some other beautifully done illustrations of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, by Mervyn Peake, who also wrote the extraordinary Gormenghast Trilogy. His Alice drawings are odd and whimsical, with a not quite purely innocent Alice, unlike any others, and some unusual vaguely Seuss-like creatures, . I’d highly recommend you have a look. And also read the Gormenghast stories, which he both wrote and illustrated, long, complex and beautiful.

    be well

  4. Comment by Charley Parker
    Sunday, January 29, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

    Thanks, Joel. While I had seen one or two of Peake’s illustrations in isolation (history of illustration type books), I wasn’t really familiar with much of his work or the Gormenghast books. I found his official web site. (If you know of other good online galleries of his work, please let me know.) His illustrations for Alice certainly have their own strong identity, but what really knocked me out were his illos for The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Wow. He’ll probably be the topic of a future post. Thanks!

  5. Pingback by » Blog Archive » Colin Stimpson
    Wednesday, July 25, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    [...] Stimpson lists early influences that include great Edwardian illustrators like Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham. He carries those influences into his snappy, nicely textured illustrations and a richly [...]

  6. Pingback by Charles Burchfield - Art You Know
    Friday, June 25, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    [...] pieces, incorporating influences from botanical illustrations, Japanese prints, illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Romantic artists like William Blake and Samuel Palmer; but after the event he began to [...]

  7. Pingback by Joe Fenton | Qatato
    Thursday, June 23, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

    [...] mythology, Northern Renaissance art and contemporary pop culture, with a bit of M.C. Escher and Arthur Rackham thrown in for good measure; creating a wild visual stew of eclectic [...]

  8. Pingback by Scott Gustafson | CS5 Design
    Monday, December 26, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    [...] Scott Gustafson’s richly textured and intricately detailed illustrations are steeped in his admiration for great illustrators of the Golden Age like N.C. Wyeth, Normal Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and Arthur Rackham. [...]

  9. Pingback by Felideus (Juan Parra) | CS5 Design
    Wednesday, January 25, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

    [...] of some of the Golden Age illustrators who worked in detailed and highly textural styles, like Arthur Rackham and Gustav Tenggren. Felideus manages at the same time to make his images feel ancient and modern, [...]

  10. Comment by Ruth Miller
    Sunday, September 2, 2012 @ 4:31 am

    Arthur Rackham’s Fairy Tale Art is now available as playing cards:

  11. Pingback by Dreamy Fairytale Artwork by Cory Godbey « R A N D O M ? M U S I N G S
    Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 1:54 am

    [...] can see in Godbey’s work his apparent admiration for classic Golden Age illustrators like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, John Bauerand Gustav Tenggren, as well as contemporary illustrators like Maurice [...]

  12. Pingback by Mentor of the Day: Cory Godbey | Motivarti
    Monday, January 14, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    [...] can see in Godbey’s work his apparent admiration for classic Golden Age illustrators like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, John Bauer and Gustav Tenggren, as well as contemporary illustrators like Maurice [...]

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