Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The H. J. Ford poster...

As promised to my "Lucky 13" know who you are... I'm excited about the new H.J. Ford project, and I selected an image that showed up here on VIEW a few weeks ago to show just how much intensity still exists in these 100 year old ink drawings... Here's the poster, formatted to 11x17, though posted here as a hi-res jpg. See what you can do with it. And a very Merry to you all.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The More Sophistocated works of Dulac

When looking at the main players in Golden Age illustration, there are a number of different schools to look at. The Brandywine is a school all unto itself. There are illustrators of the same era, like Charles Dana Gibson and Howard Chandler Christy, who created imagery of the day, not the fanciful stuff I tend to look at here. The European group, was a whole different entity. When looking at children's book work, fairy tales, and gift books, the British publishers really had a firm hold on the best illustrators at the turn of the century. Leading that charge was Arthur Rackham. If there was any other persona that might even approach him, it was Edmund Dulac.
Last post I put forth a selection of images from one of Dulac's earliest books—a self-written project at that—which had some great characters, beautifully simple compositions, and brilliant palettes, but lacked the sophistication his later works would obtain. Here I will show you some of that range, from a few of my favorite Dulac books.

Bells is an image I found on a greeting card back in 1979. Even as a teen I found that image riveting. I filed it away, only to come across it decades later, in an AMAZING book of Poe's poetry, that contains dozens of beautiful color plates by Dulac. When the book was handed to me, it sparked the notion that a book of images inspired by Poe might be possible...It was the first book I was able to do on a number of themes.

From the same book is the image from the poem Eldorado— I wanted to use this image on the cover, it was turned down because the publisher wanted a scene that had more recognition as a famous Poe tale....

Dulac loved to do work with Eastern influence. Later in his career, his style actually resembled that of Asian print works and paintings. He did many versions of The Arabian Nights, and stories that originated there. These are two of my favorite plates. Notice the smile on her face as she boils the thief alive... many wouldn't even notice his writhing hand...

In all his fairy tale work, this piece from Andersen's "The Wind's Tale" really catches me. The space, the soft color, and the way he has actually managed to draw the wind. How cool is that?


I've kept you all waiting a while. Tomorrow there will be a small Seasonal gift from V I E W to you—I have a mini-poster for my new book on H. J. Ford's work. It was designed to print 11x17. Let me know if the post works, I may be able to do more in the future.
Ring out those Solstice Bells!!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Edmund Dulac, Man of Letters

Surprisingly enough, I've managed to elude Edmund Dulac as a topic here on VIEW, up to this point. Let it be addressed, here and now.

Let me say a bit about the idea of the gift-book. Primarily in Britain, but also to some extant in the US, there was a kind of publishing boom that went on from 1905 to the middle of WWI. Full color printing was just coming into being, but it was still a rare treat to obtain these miniature prints...and reading as a form of entertainment was at a peak it will never enjoy again, unless all the power goes out. There was no better gift during the holidays, than to receive a book of the best stories, with color illustrations by the best artists. For that decade and a bit more, publishers were like today's movie studios, looking to contract the big names to work exclusively for them. While Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) was the number one draw in producing this kind of book, there is little argument that Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) was his closest competitor.

Dulac was French born, and settled in London in late 1904 in the hopes of finding work in publishing. This was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Dulac worked on some fantastic titles over his career; The Arabian Nights, The Works of Poe, Grimm, Andersen, and Treasure Island. His work can be moody, sensitive, his draftsmanship is top notch. His color palette is still revered today.

In discussions elsewhere, I mentioned that Dover had recently released a reprint of one of Dulac's earlier books, that he also wrote. This isn't a book that normally enters a list of his top 10 books, but it has some great little gems of characters, and the color is beautiful. I wanted to give those interested a peek at these specifically, and in a few days I'll follow up with some of my favorite Dulac works.

Here's a few spots to get a deep look at a wide range of his work.

Jim Vadeboncouer's Dulac Bio
Surlalune's Dulac Collection
Artpassion's Dulac Collection

So here, from
Lyrics Pathetic and Humorous, Frederick Warne & Co., 1906—

Dover's reprint

News from the Fall 2010 Dover list. Announced on Amazon this week, so I can state it here as well—Currently slated for late Sept. `10 release is
The Art & Illustration of Walter Crane. Look mid- December for a peek at this project!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Laurence Housman, the illustrator

Among many of those whose illustrations grace these "pages", a good number of them at one point or another have taken up the the pen for words, as well as picture. Howard Pyle practiced both with great expertise. On the other side of the pond, one inker who has caught my attention more than once is Lawrence Housman. (1865-1959)

Housman is better remembered today for his writing, it occupied the latter two thirds of his working life. He began writing with poetry in the 1890s, and then literary tales, and plays. As for his art, his inking style was incredibly intricate, and by the time he was in his mid-thirties, his eyesight had begun to fail, and with that he turned more to writing.

For about a decade, 1890-1900, he did some very beautiful line work. His style had an organic kind of flow- it reminds me of the kinds of pattern and warp you might find in wood grain, or the foam on the water. It is this natural kind of texturing that really make his work distinct. The pieces and the tales he worked with were often fantastic, with a bit of the supernatural. In the latter half of that decade, Housman did some books that, like Pyle, he wrote and illustrated. I am not aware of any illustration work that Housman did in color, but if you know of some, please let us know.

If there is work of Housman's that you are familiar with, it is likely the work from Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market. Originally published in 1893, it has been reprinted frequently and has been in print until just recently. Housman's edition is full of illustrations and decorations, and has become the definitive illustrated version of the poem. The first two images are from his Goblin Market. If there is a piece of writing of Housman's out there that you are familiar with, it may very well be his version of the Arabian Nights, a version which is frequently used for any modern reprint. Originally, it was the edition that introduced us to the Arabian Nights illustrations of Edmund Dulac.

Other images here are from Jonas Lie's Weird Tales of Northern Seas- 1892, Scandinavian folk tales

Jane Barlow's The End of Elfintown, 1894

The Field of Clover, 1898, one of the four collections of literary fairy tales that he wrote.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Before the books and their illustrators, there were these folks-

In the late Victorian age, when printing technology had yet to catch up with the wild imaginations of an incredible group of creatives, there was a lot of great narrative painting going on. Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists, some being influenced by impressionists, some sticking with great painting traditions. Realist painters colliding with mythical subjects. Throw in some Art Nouveau influence, and we have some very interesting imagery.

Some of them, like Walter Crane (1845-1915) and Frederick Sandys (1829-1904), would manage to defy convention, and flourish in both the gallery world and in the commercial goings-on in early illustrated books. Most professors will tell you this isn't a possibility today. Regardless of opinion, they pulled it off pretty well then.

Over a year ago I began the selection process for the images that would result in this book, and though it went through a great deal of transformation since then, it is a terrific group of images that seldom get a moment to shine in most art collections.

It's not all (strictly) Victorian, but what's not is rooted in what started there. It's not all fantasy, there is some Mythology and some romantic history as well. All of it is very influential material that would shape the imagery produced in the Golden Age of illustration.

Top to bottom-
Edmund Blair Leighton, The Accolade, 1901

Evelyn De Morgan, Earthbound, 1897

John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1891—maybe my favorite depiction of this story, the ship and the treatment of the Harpies are fantastic.

George Frederic Watts, The Angel of Death, c. 1870s. Watts is a dreamer's painter, and in my book should get a lot more attention.
Also- Coming up next month is a convention in Altoona, PA, by the name of Illuxcon. This show is for fantasy illustrators and fans of that material. It's a professional level show, and I imagine a few of the folks who look over this site might be there. If you're going, let me know, I'll see you there!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Pogány Book out from Dover

As promised...
When I started posting these entries back in February, my first comments were on a book that I have the highest regards for, as a book design, and as a collection of illustration—Willy Pogany's edition of Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It was nearby because I was in the midst of a large project to pull together some of Pogány's best illustration work. This week the book was just made available on Dover Publishing's website, and within a few days, it will be available elsewhere.

If you are not familiar with Pogány, (1882-1955) you are not alone. (Jim Vadeboncoeur's Pogany bio at Bud Plant is a good start) His most revered works are nearly a century old, and I am not aware of any serious attempt to reprint them, largely do to the complex methods originally used to achieve a wide variety of full color and partial color images. The cost of printing with these methods today would be astronomical. As I said months ago, if you can find a copy (in that rare-and-out-of print-bookstore) , ask to take a look at it. You will not go away without a new appreciation for Pogány.

What makes Pogány remarkable, is that whatever creative path he went down in his life-long career, he made it work. When British publishing was looking for the best new talents in book illustration, enter Willy Pogány. When art-deco was the look the public craved, he had no trouble simplifying and streamlining. When Hollywood became the next big means of visual storytelling, Pogány was there. Some will argue that his work feels more dated than that of his contemporaries, I think his work is more period. It reflects the taste of the era it was done in. It was Pogány's ability to change with the times that kept his career healthy his whole life.

Pogány did book work throughout his whole career, producing an amazing list of titles, and a unique portfolio of images. With this new title from Dover, I hope to bring him a bit of the respect I think he is due, and bring his vision to a generation of illustration fans that would have previously found it very difficult to obtain.

Top to bottom-
The title page of Tannhauser, 1911. Scanned and printed in 4-color process today, it was printed in 6 colors on a dark gray stock back in the day.

They instantly changed into snow-white birds, The Fairies and the Christmas Child, 1912. Makes me want to read the story....

Siegfried captures Ludegast, Myths and Legends of the Middle Ages, 1909. DIAGONALS.

Cadmus followed the Brindled Cow, from A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales, 1909. Great illustration of an ordinary thing...

On the hill-top stands one old Oak-tree.... The Tale of Lohengrin, 1913. What a tree!

Next week- another new release, over a year in the making....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Beginnings of Modern Fantasy: H. J. Ford

This entry comes as a bit of a preview. Come next February, I have a title slated to release on Ford—Maidens, Monsters, and Heroes, The Fantasy Art of H. J. Ford.
I've given his work a look or two in relation to a given subject, (There is a nice color plate on mermaids, from a few weeks ago) but I haven't really focused in on him yet, so now is the time. What I cannot understand about Henry Justice Ford's (1860-1941) work, is how much it is overlooked. There is a ton of it out there, much of it still in print today. While Ford did some beautiful watercolor work, I find his best moments are rendered in ink. He had an understanding of contrast and placement that seems to nearly vanish from his color work. Ford's career didn't really spark until 1890, when he first collaborated with Andrew Lang on The Blue Fairy Book. This was the first in a set of fairy tale collections that he worked on with
Lang; originally with other artists as well, but once they got it down, Ford and Lang became a powerful tandem with successes that few artist/writer teams enjoy. There were 12 Fairy books, and all sorts of other anthology collections as well. Hundreds and hundreds of illustrations.

One thing I have really taken note of as I've leafed through many of the Ford editions, is that he really had a handle on the idea of a dragon—especially for the time. I cannot recall seeing other images of dragons as early as 1905, that still have the characteristics we place on them today. If Ford were working today, he would definitely be in the fantasy market—Ford's dragons hold up remarkably well, design-wise. I can't help but think that factors like wing design, head shape, and claws all still carry some of the look that Ford was using a century ago, and I imagine that most writers of Fantasy in the last hundred years, were influenced in some way by the Fairy books put out by Lang and Ford. I thought I'd share a bit of what I mean by that with these images, from the score of years that Ford was most active, from 1900-1920.

Top to Bottom-
St. George. Who takes on drawing a dragon from the back? I have to imagine he spent some time looking at some sort of lizard in a zoo, and that was the angle he got.

Beowulf. Holy cow. What a crazy wonderful piece.

A Danish Raid in Britain. In 1916 Ford took on a series of "historical" works for a school book. He must have had some luxury of time, or maybe he took the subject more seriously—these pieces are far more developed than his earlier color works, and full of details that usually only survive in his ink work.

The Giants shadow. One of my very favorite Ford inks. There is a whole story going on here, if you just take the time to look. The Giant(s) shadow, with his hand on the far left. Low in the composition is the fair damsel, standing in the rocks...and is that a prince hiding under the horse? Nice storytelling. I love the way the shape of the piece makes your eyes travel to read it.

___Next week, I'll have some images from my new title on Willy Pogány, hitting the stores any day now!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When the Hero is a Heroine

Let me pick up that train of thought, started in the last post. It has been said that the field of illustration had been a decent place for women to advance, "back in the day".
So then why is it when you think of, say, the top ten "Golden Age" illustrators, chances are still good that you'll think of 10 men first? Let me restate slightly—women could do well in illustration, while it was extremely difficult in other professional fields—odds were still stacked against them. But if you look at other high profile professions of the day, there are few that had as many women in the top ranks as illustration. Today it is more balanced than many fields, and there are many great women designers and illustrators.

While Elizabeth Shippen Green (last post)is on my list of favorites, this illustrator is a real rare find, and likely unknown to more of you. Maybe a decade ago, I came across a book of Russian Fairy Tales. Though I saw some really great work in it, it passed quickly through my hands, and I lost track of it—but found it again this past month. The author's name is R. Nisbet Bain, and the illustrator is listed as Noel L. Nisbet. (1887-1956) That "Nisbet" seems a strange coincidence, but I don't know if there is anything really to that—regardless—The book is from about 1916(?), it has 16 plates, 4 of them color. Wow. These pieces really knock me out. How could I not know this person? How come I can't find (more) info on them? Well, I looked, and dug, and I did find some info. Noel, is actually Laura Noel Nesbit. I was also able to find that she was an active Victorian painter, married to painter Harry Bush in 1910, and only spent a short time in the field of illustration, working on books from about 1910-1917, and then returning to larger works.

But what great stuff she put out. Rarely have I come across successful black and white work that exhibits this level of complexity (maybe only Bernie Wrightson in the last 50 years). The use of values achieved through line-work is stellar, each ink piece feeling like it was studied and prepped as a full blown painting. The color work has a very smooth and even pallete, warm, but not overdone. A small book she did in 1917, The Enchanted Lochan, has just 4 color plates, but feels as if it could easily have inspired a character like Conan. (Check out that last image with the Druid...)
I will be digging for more of her illustration work. Here's a larger than usual sampling, from Russian Fairy Tales, Cossack Fairy Tales, and The Enchanted Lochan. Again—Wow.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1871-1954

A century ago, there were not many professional fields in which a woman was welcome to advance—
As high-profile as illustration was (at that time), it was a fair career choice for men and women. Howard Pyle's art classes at Drexel had a great deal of women in attendance, and many of those got strong illustration careers off the ground. Among those students—Jessie Wilcox-Smith, Violet Oakley, and Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Shippen Green's work has always been compelling to me. Her early work has something of a
"stained glass" quality to it—not that it is full of flat areas, like Harry Clarke's work, but it does have two features about it that are reminiscent of stained glass—the brilliant areas of clean color, and heavy blacks that separate them. (Watercolors over charcoal drawings) While her subjects are consistent with those of a score other active illustrators of the time, Shippen Green had a style that made her work readily identifiable, and nearly unique. I imagine it did not grant her the satisfaction she was looking for, for later in her career she strayed to be more mainstream, taking up opaque paints to produce work more in keeping with that of her contemporaries, and certainly more common in appearance. Most of her illustration work was done for Harper's Magazines, with whom she had an exclusive contract for twenty-three years, 1902-1924. Later she did occasional magazine covers and some book work as well.

Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr.'s Bio of ESG at Bud Plant

A terrific collection at Paul Giambarba's 100 Years of Illustration.

Something of a setback this last week, as my scanner is "no longer with us"... (These images were already "in the bank") I won't be long without one, but, please stand by...(Hum Girl from Ipanema in Bossa Nova beat...)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mermaids and Other Inhabitants of the Deep

2009, Dover Publications. Here is my latest collection on a theme, due out any day now—
There is an incredibly sensual draw that compels one towards mer-imagery. Take the things that modern psychology would say about water visuals, compound that with beckoning forms of scantily-clad maidens, and you have the major ingredients to lure many viewers into a painting....
The components lend themselves well to the tastes of the visual artist—The seascape is one of the most practiced and best-sold landscape subjects, while the nude-form is champion on many artistic levels. At some point in their career, almost every Golden-Age artist has done a mermaid. John William Waterhouse did a few, and he did some of the best-known and most revered. Howard Pyle's last (and unfinished) major work—sitting on the easel at the time of his death, was his mermaid. H.J. Ford, Rackham and Dulac did many of them, both color and line.

For quite some time I considered a collection of this material too narrow to attain, even though interest in the subject is great. Then I started collecting work for Andersen's Fairy Tales for an unrelated project. I began to find that almost every artist who would do Andersen's Tales, had a field day imagining "The Little Mermaid". I looked into tales like Undine, Peter Pan, and Midsummer Night's Dream, and uncovered more and more mer-imagery. I had some solid images that anchored the project tucked to the side, and marked up whatever I could find to be scanned. With a big hand from Christina at Dover, the layout came together, and I'm very pleased with the book. And then I found those images I had tucked away. Oh well... , that happens sometimes.

Top to bottom are some choice ones-

H. J. Ford from the Orange Fairy Book
Herbert Cole's Sphynx-like Mercreature
A rare Kelpie Illustration from Warwick Goble
A beautiful group of scales and tails by Walter Crane

Back soon—and good luck to all heading out to Gen Con (Gaming Convention) in Indianapolis in the next week or so. Looking forward to your reports.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Drivers and Lampmen

A few weeks ago I posted some images from Century Magazine—some J. C. Leyendecker illustrations that have impressed me for a long while.

As if imagery like that wasn't enough for one issue of a magazine in 1920, there is an amazing pictorial piece that follows it on the next few pages. It's grayscale work, but it is gorgeous drawing, and the subject is very interesting as well.

Thornton Oakley (1881-1955) was one of Howard Pyle's crew. Nineteen years old in that magical year of 1900, he was the right age to join Pyle's school, and the right age to take full advantage of it. Not only did Oakley get a career, but he also found a wife among Pyle's students, whose name may now be more famous than his—Violet Oakley—but we'll look at her work another time.

Thornton Studied with Pyle for three years. (After studying architecture—This combination of skills helped out a few very successful illustrators, including Maxfield Parrish) The work Oakley did afterward often had a real industrial bend to it, and there was lots of work with the War efforts in both World Wars. Shipyards, Railroads, Utilities, and some mural work. A writer/Illustrator, he did work on many of the periods best magazines, and like Pyle, he became a teacher, staying in the Philadelphia area his entire life.

This particular group of images in on rail-yard work. Titled "In The Railway Yard, Pictures by Thornton Oakley." FOUR FULL PAGES of a popular magazine, devoted to nothing other than displaying some beautiful narrative drawings. Can you imagine?

I imagine they were fairly large charcoal drawings. If anyone out there knows anything about them, what became of them, where they are now, please drop a line and let us know. I leave you with this quote—

"Illustration is the highest type of pictorial art ... because illustration is simply a pictorial MAKING CLEAR, and if a picture makes clear a message in a big way, it is an illustration, whether it be made for magazine, book, mural decoration, or exhibition."
Thornton Oakley, 1923

More info on Oakley —
Papers from the Delaware Art Museum, and source of a good deal of this info-

A look at a color Oil Tanker,

Kind of makes me want to draw the old switch Tower at Mineola....

See ya next week.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some scarce Harry Clarke

If the name Harry Clarke (1890-1931) triggers any visual memories for you, it is likely that the images are a bit on the disturbing side. While Clarke did a number of projects in his short career that are worth recalling, there is one that stands head and shoulders among the rest. Clarke did an amazing illustrated edition of Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edgar Allan Poe, in 1919. It sold so well that the original publisher released an expanded edition with even more art by Clarke just a few years later. (The top image is from this second run at Poe) It has become the measuring stick against which all other illustrated versions of Poe are measured. It is also Clarke's biggest claim to fame. Not that he didn't do other great work. His primary interest in his creative career was stained glass design, and his work is greatly prized by many locations in his native Ireland where it can still be found today. One look at the large flat areas in his ink work will lead an educated viewer to an understanding of why.

The work of Clarke's that remains largely accessible, however, is his book illustration. Clarke also did a Faust, a Hans Christian Andersen's Tales, and a Fairy Tales of Perrault. Most of these are scarce at best, with only his Poe seeing a reprint edition now and again. Unless you happen to live in the United Kingdom, it is pretty unlikely that you have seen any of his glass design. (*see below) Then I found this article—In a 1920 edition of The Studio—Not a very large text, but it did offer a look at three color panels of Clarke's glass work. The color is not great, but I can't pass up a chance to share these-The third and fourth images are from smaller, private glass commissions, and the last is a line drawing from The Playboy of the Western World. (Very last being a close up of the figures on top—just look at that patterning!) The oval piece is especially nice. Alas, like Poe himself, (and eerily, so many other brilliant creatives) Clarke would not live long into his 40's, dying of tuberculosis in 1931.

Find a bit more here-

The only authoritative work on Clarke-

* And keep an eye on this!-

Back soon-