There is a sub-genre within Victorian painting, Golden Age illustration and contemporary fantasy art that is sometimes called faerie art or fairy art. It dwells on those imaginary miniature denizens of woodlands and fields who are often portrayed with pointed ears and gossamer wings.
As much as I like some of the former two categories, largely because I like Victorian painting in general and artists like Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham no matter what their subject, faeries as a subject for paintings have never been a particular draw for me — dragons and goblins, yes — faeries, not so much.
Contemporary fantasy artists who specialize in faerie art tend to leave me cold, their subjects often over rendered, and at times cloying in the attempt to portray the “magic” of faeries.
So I’m simply not one predisposed to like faerie art.
This is the point of view from which I express my admiration for the work of Jean-Baptiste Monge, a contemporary illustrator who I have featured previously and who is known primarily as a faerie artist.
Though the pointed ears are prevalent, and translucent wings occasionally make an appearance, Monge’s gritty faerie world has more in common with the pirates of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, or the goblins and trolls of Gustaf Tenggren and John Bauer, than with the pastoral fantasies of most contemporary faerie illustrators.
Monge also has more in common with the style of the Golden Age illustrators than with his contemporaries, both in his superb draftsmanship and his judicious application of color and texture.
His masterful use of texture is one of the aspects of his work I find most appealing. Even in his simple pencil drawings, there is a feeling for the visual textures and tactile surfaces of the real world that informs and enlivens his fantasy settings.
Since I last wrote about Monge back in 2010, his website has been revised and expanded, with galleries of illustrations from all of his major books.
Monge will be a featured guest at this year’s CTN Animation Expo in Burbank, California in November.