Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy 201, Mr. Poe

It has come to my attention that Poe's 201st birthday was this past week (Jan. 19th). I'm a big fan of Poe imagery. In 2007 I put together a book collecting illustrations of his works— it gave me a new avenue to explore in regards to illustration collections, grouping by theme rather than artist. I enjoy this approach, with four titles so far, and a fifth on the way soon. But Poe will always be my first...

There are some stand-out samples in the Poe Illustrated collection. Dulac's pieces are amazing, I showed one just a few weeks ago, and I'll put up a Poe portrait here that appears to be a Dulac etching . There is some nice color work by Byam Shaw, a British Illustrator who went on to found an Art School, and Harry Clarke's nearly definitive work on Poe. Then there are some really inspired ink pieces by a young William Heath Robinson (1872-1944). Robinson was one of three successful illustrator brothers who all did book illustration. Most of William Heath's latter work relied heavily on satire, humor, and some crazy imaginative inventions. I called these images inspired because they are not his usual material or even style, he hadn't really settled on that yet at this point in his career. These pieces are highly influenced by the Art Nouveau movement that would have been going strong at the time (1900), and are more decorative than most of W. H. Robinson's latter works. He pulls off the mix of his own storytelling with the style of the day fantastically. The small book these pieces came from contains scores of beautiful line pieces, Including some incredible full page plates. Here's a couple of my faves, and a link to the whole thing on pdf.

There's a lot more to tell about the brothers Robinson. I'll try to get back to W. H., Charles, and Thomas Heath, in the near future.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Before Rackham, Pyle, and Pogány, there was Crane.

Happy New Year. I've been away for a bit, holidays and all that. Let's get back to business. Books in the pipe- a selection of Maxfield Parrish imagery is going through final press stages, and my book on H. J. Ford is about ready to head to the printer. A few weeks ago I announced an upcoming project on Walter Crane (1845-1915), and promised a peek at what makes him interesting. Let's get to that now.

The thing that makes Crane stand out the most, is that he was one of the first—predating H. J. Ford, even. His early children's work changed and developed as printing technology did, with heavy lines and flat color at first, where the work of his last two volumes more closely resembled the fully rendered paintings he produced in the latter part of his career. All throughout, he was a great advocate of the decorated book, and produced many publications that showcased his skills from title-page to end.
He did not look back to the Pre-Raphaelites, they were his contemporaries. While an illustrator trying to enter the fine art market is a rare and difficult task now, Crane did well in both areas, concurrently. His imaginative work ran the gamut between nursery rhymes to classic mythology. His styles ranged from simple line to full-blown oils to design and patterns. He was in-step with the active art scene of the day, but found commercial outlets that made him highly successful.
There is a LOT of material on Crane out there, but here are a few of the better links to the tip of the iceberg-
Crane at Artmagick
at Artcyclopedia
At the Elizabeth Nesbitt room