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.