Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From the Other Side of the Channel

Largely due to our own difficulties with language, most of what we're exposed to is limited to English. (most, not all) Some of the world's promising artists and illustrators during illustration's Golden Age found their way to Britain, or America, because it's where the largest book markets were—Edmund Dulac, and Willy Pogány come to mind. A few, worked across international lines.

Some years back, one of the acquisitions editors brought to my attention an unusual oblong book—well over a century old, by a French illustrator I was not familiar with. Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, (1851-1913). The book interested me right from the start, largely due to the medieval subject, but the more I poured over it, the deeper it pulled me in. Boutet de Monvel had a fairly successful go with childrens' book illustration in the 1880s. It was not his passion, however, he resorted to it for financial reasons; his training was in painting.

The book, an 1896 retelling of the tale of Joan of Arc, remains the only book of his I've had a real study of, but it's 45 images are enough to find an appreciation for the man's thinking, his planning, and a highly efficient execution of composition. It's a great study of period costume and weaponry as well. The style of finish here is rather sparse, but at the same time, no detail is lacking. Every horse, distant figure, or raised weapon is carefully placed. Many of the images spill across both horizontal pages, creating a long panoramic space for the artist to fill with figures. The color is intentionally softened— Boutet de Monvel calling it "...not color, really, it is the impression, the suggestion of color"
The book brought a good deal attention to Boutet de Monvel in France, and gained him some degree of success in England and America as well.
After numerous considerations, Dover finally did decide to reprint it earlier this year. These are a few of my favorite spreads/images.

The Walter Crane book is on the market—I'll have new copies with me at Illuxcon in two weeks, if anyone wants to pick one up there. If you'd like me to bring a copy of Joan of Arc as well, drop me a line.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another peek at Norman Price

It's been a while since the last post. Things are busy, but that's not without some news to report. I haven't been writing here, because I've been busy working on three books... I'm wrapping up the last text bits for Shakespeare Illustrated, finalizing the plate selection for An Edmund Dulac Treasury, and beginning to hunt new material for one of my two titles on the Fall 2011 list, which I'll be able to give some details on soon. There is also a big new painting on the board, and Illuxcon is right around the corner.
After the last post, I felt as if the mention of Norman Price (1877-1951) was a bit of a tease. The other four on that list have had a fair amount of recognition, if not here, than likely on some of the sites on my "Education" list, (above, left). Info on Price is a bit harder to come by. At the same time— I have a nice selection of plates from him that will appear in the aforementioned Shakespeare Illustrated. The sections in the book are being assembled by play. This is pretty unusual, but we felt it would provide better reference for Drama usage if the art was collected this way. We picked the 12 plays we were able to find the best art for—which are generally the best known and most imaginative—and it's shaped up nicely. However— it does mean that there are some really beautiful plates, from less illustrated works, that have no place in the book. So I thought I'd show you some of Norman Price's pieces that didn't make the selection, as an appetizer.
As I mentioned last week, Price was not a student of Pyle's, but he did follow a very similar path. He had tremendous respect for historical details, had an affinity for pirates, and I believe you can say here, that his palette is also in the same neighborhood as Pyle's. This Shakespeare work is from a 1905(?) edition of Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb, Published by T. C. and E. C. Jack, London.