Inspirational Artist: Arthur Rackham

January 25, 2012

This week I am working on a fairly large piece of art that actually has a deadline, so I don't have any new craft projects to blog about. However, I've been pouring over the artwork of several astounding illustrators and painters lately... I thought I'd share some with you (and this might become an ongoing thread here at the Faerie Blog).

Coming straight from the Golden Days of Illustration is Arthur Rackham, a famous English illustrator of fairytales, myths, and legends.

Anyone who illustrates the Brothers Grimm, Peter Pan, A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Arthur, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Valkyrie, Aesop's Fables, The Wind in the Willows, assorted Greek, Roman, and Norse myths, and other miscellaneous stories has got to be awesome, right?

Combine the subject matter with a dark and mysterious watercolor, sinusoidal sepia pen, an eye for magical lighting, and elegant lines... it's not hard to see why Rackham is one of my favorite artists of all time. I think I was first captured when I saw his illustrations in a very musty, crinkly book of fairytales that I got at the library in grade school.

Plus, his work is now in the public domain! You'll see several of his illustrations grace the February issue of Ink and Fairydust.

Here's just a few of his pieces-- not necessarily my favorite ones, but the ones that I like that are easy to find. :)

You might recognize this painting of a tree dude talking or capturing a girl (I can't tell which)-- it's certainly one of Rackham's works that I've seen all over the place. However, I have no idea what the name of this piece is or what it is from.

At first I thought it might be a drawing of the myth of Daphne, who was chased by Apollo and turned into a laurel tree... but then I realized that this the girl in this drawing is not the tree. No idea what I was thinking!

I'm not sure what this piece is called, but I'm interested in it mostly for the technicalities of that watercolor wash in the background. (I've been trying to learn watercolors and the array of techniques is so overwhelming!)

Pandora. I'm sure you are all well aware of the Greek myth of the first woman Pandora who opens the forbidden box out of curiosity and unleashes horrible things into the world. Frightened, she tried and tried to close the lid on the evils, but succeeds only in trapping Hope.

This is from Undine, which I have never read. I looked it up on Wikipedia, and now I really need to read it, because apparently George MacDonald (an awesome author) considered it one of the best fairy stories ever. It's an old German tale of a water nymph who marries a knight, and my understanding is that the storyline is similar to The Little Mermaid. 

I love the magic and swirl lines in this photo... along with the desaturation except for the blues and greens.

This is such a funny picture... my favorite awkward scene from A Midsummers Night's Dream: when Titania falls in love with Bottom.

A dancing fairy from Peter Pan. I love how she is walking tightrope on a spiderweb.

Aside from his recognizable watercolors, Arthur Rackham did some pretty cool marginalia:

from Peter Pan

a Valkyrie-- one of the warrior maidens of the sky from Norse lore

If you like these works, I'll direct you towards this wonderful website called Art Passions. I just found it today; I believe they have the most comprehensive gallery of Rackham's work. It's a bit hard to navigate-- especially considering the huge amount of artwork that Rackham produced during his prolific career-- but I can guarantee that it's a black hole you'll happily get lost in.

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  1. I love Rackham's art! My mom has an old Grimm's Fairy Tale book illustrated by him, and I love just looking at the pictures.(:
    And now I am VERY excited for the upcoming issue of I&F!


  2. I've actually never seen that first pic before. I thought of the myth of Daphne as well - funny that we thought of the same weird thing. Now I'm really curious as to what that illustration was for....

  3. I picked the picture of Pandora and the one of Bottom and Titania, but that second picture made me think of Daphne too, though thankfully I knew it wasn't. Just the girl and the tree is so similar to that myth!

  4. Hi I love Rackham and consider him to be a real inspiration, I'm sure I have that first picture somewhere in my library so I will try and track it down
    Elizabeth Andrews @ A World of Magic Myth and Legend

  5. I love those A Midsummer Nights Dream pictures. I have a AMND book full of those pictures... I have been in that play for many years over and over again, so I really love those drawings!


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