Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fantastic Color Works by Franklin Booth

The Flying Islands of the Night.

Title sounds interesting, doesn't it? The story is a fantasy, written in the form of a play, by American poet James Whitcomb Riley. (1849-1916) I am a great fan of a fantastic story, and I will not pretend to have read this—but the format alone removes it from standard comparisons. The story carries a feeling of Shakespeare colliding with Jules Verne. The writing is © 1891, but what makes this something worth commenting on, is an edition that was put out by the Bobbs-Merrill company in 1913.

Franklin Booth (1874-1948) is fairly well-known among fans of Golden-Age illustration. He created a style for himself while trying to imitate the art he was seeing printed at the turn of the century, mostly as wood-engravings. Only Booth did not know this was a printing technique ... he sought out to create pen and ink work that gave this effect of tone from lines. It is both maddening and brilliant, and he became great at it.

Like many illustrators who excel in their black and white work, Booth never gets the praise for his color work that it might otherwise deserve. Booth put out some beautiful color work, with a great sense of space, and very dynamic compositions that push the viewer all over that rectangle. And he had a good sense of color, as well. While I may see some influence of Edmund Dulac in the plate "So empty are my arms, so full my heart" (last of the four images), I also see parallels between Booth's color work and the brilliant graphic novel work of Charles Vess, who is kicking out great stuff today.

I had the good fortune to come across a copy of this volume, with 15 of the 16 plates in place. (As a collector of books, this is a travesty, but as a collector of illustration, this–and perhaps a library stamp–may allow you to obtain early images that you might not otherwise be able to afford...)

To start digging on Booth, try these sites-

and there are two very good books of his work, currently in print-
Franklin Booth; American Illustrator, Manual Auad (contains 3 color plates from Flying Islands)
Franklin Booth; Painter with a Pen, John Fleskes (focuses on Booth's great line work)

Hats off to two incredible blogs I have found since starting this project.
The above mentioned
and another recently pointed out to me (which knocked me over...)

See you next week—Jeff


Sandy said...

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