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!