Friday, June 29, 2012

Arthur Rackham (update)

Arthur Rackham: Rip van Winkle, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Undine, The Ring of the Niblung
Arthur Rackham was one of the greatest illustrators of the turn of the 20th century Golden Age of Illustration, that is to say one of the greatest illustrators of all time.

Though many are familiar with his beautiful illustrations for Rip van Winkle (images above, top), which established his reputation, and Gulliver’s Travels, as well as a number English and Irish fairy tales, and even his superb illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (above, second down) which I think are the only set to hold their own against John Tenniel’s definitive drawings, fewer have see what is perhaps Rackham’s masterwork, the illustrations for J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (above, 5 & 6), or his stunning interpretations of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (above, third down).

Fewer still are familiar with his dramatic and powerful illustrations for the three books of Wagner’s The Ring of the Niblung (above, bottom three).

Rackham’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations could be alternately (and at times simultaneously) delicate and forceful, idyllic and frightening, refined and grungy, brilliantly light and eerily dark.

Since I first wrote about Rackham back in 2006, at which point I found very few resources for his work online, the internet has continued its Jack and the Banstalk-like growth, presenting us with new gifts on every leaf.

One of the best current resources for Rackham’s work, particularly his remarkable Ring illustrations, is the deceptively named Golden Age Comicbook Stories blog, in which our mysterious benefactor, “Mr. Door Tree”, has an amazing knack for finding and posting large high-quality images. Here is his post for The Ring of the Niblung, and here the set for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

If you click on his left column heading for Arthur Rackham, which does a search, keep going back through “Older posts” at page bottom for several pages of articles that include Rackham or are specifically about his work.

The other great resource on Rackham’s illustrations, and likely the most extensive one, is Art Passions. This is a landing page with links. Some of the links are to individual illustrations, others, however, are to entire sets from his major projects.

In print, you can find a number of reproductions of Rackham’s books and collections of his illustrations (Amazon link), with varying degrees of fidelity and quality.

The July, 2012 issue of ImagineFX magazine, which is currently on sale in the US (#84) has an article on Arthur Rackham.

I’ve listed some other resources below.

I’ll give this my Major Time Sink Warning.

10 thoughts on “Arthur Rackham (update)

  1. Ben Stansfield

    I would love to share this post, and others, on my facebook page, but unfortunately, for all of them I try, I get a generic link to your blog, rather than a specific post.
    otherwise, great stuff, thanks for sharing!

  2. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Ben. I tried the Facebook and Twitter icons (under the “Share or bookmark this post” line) and they seem to work OK for me, but it may well be a different story in a different browser. I tried updating the plugin but it didn’t play nice with my WordPress installation and I had to back out of it. Maybe I need to look for another sharing links plugin.

  3. Brian Harrison

    Oh yes, one of the great illustrator`s of all time !!
    I bought copies of ” Mother Goose”, “Peter Pan” and ” Midsummer Nights Dream”, back in the late 1960`s, when it was difficult to find any copies of these beautifully illustrated books.
    He was able to take full advantage of the change over colour print, with his own particular style, fantastic !!

  4. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks for letting me know. I’m going to see if I can find another social linking plug-in since this one won’t let me upgrade. In the meanwhile you can copy and paste, the title of each post is a link for that individual post (I should also make that more obvious).

  5. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, David. As much as I love Dover books for keeping many of these titles in print, and available inexpensively, their reproduction quality in the past has often been less than you might expect from more expensive volumes. This is changing, however, as evidenced by recent beautiful titles like the the Dinotopia 20th Anniversary Edition (my post here).

    Other readers can check out David Brasgalla’s illustration and concept art here.

  6. Diane Byrne

    I bought a signed Arthur Rackham “arousal delights” but it’s on a strange medium. Ivory? Plastic? Any knowledge of this in his works?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>