Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patricks predecessors

This is just a quick stop-by. I'm loading the car/truck/vehicle to get to Lunacon In Rye, N.Y. tomorrow. But it has been on my mind all week that back in December I commented that I'd put up some more Celtic myth work from Stephen Reid, for St. Patricks day. So let me stick to that. Here's to the old gods.
As promised, I have more Celtic mythology from Scottish illustrator Stephen Reid. (1873-1948)
When I last mentioned his work, back on December 18th, I had just gotten my hands on one of two volumes of Celtic themed work that Reid did over a century ago. In what I can find of his other works, very few of them achieve the fluid forms that these pieces seem to capture, and his palette is diverse enough, yet still totally natural. This group of images is from the more recent acquisition—and a really tough one to get a hold of—Cuchulain, The Hound of Ulster, by Eleanor Hull, 1910. (Which seems to have also gone by the title The Boys' Cuchulain)

It seems that there were many reprints, and it is certainly easy enough to find a print-on-demand copy these days, but finding an early edition with all 16 plates in color, that's a challenge. As luck would have it, even this copy, showed up missing a plate. So close.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hard to find Sidney Chase

Sidney Chase (1877-1957) is a lesser known Brandywine Alumni. I first found Chase's work combing through century old issues of Scribner's Magazine, and then found his name again, while reading about N. C. Wyeth.

Chase was originally from Massachusetts, near Boston. While attending the Eric Pape School of Art, around 1900, he met a few fellow students that would rise to the challenges of being accepted as students of Howard Pyle—Among them was N. C. Wyeth— with whom he wrote to regularly over the years.

Most of the information I was able to find on Chase, is due to his friendship with Wyeth. As Wyeth struggled to find his place somewhere between the art museum and the illustration assignment, he had less and less respect for his fellow classmates who embraced illustration without reserve. Very few of them earned his regard. Sidney Chase was one of the few that Wyeth maintained some degree of respect and friendship for.

Looking over this set of pieces done for an article in a 1908 issue of Scribner's Magazine , it is easy to see that the work deserves some amount of respect either way. This kind of coastal Maine life was a favorite subject of Chase's— and would come to be one of Wyeth's as well- around 1920 Wyeth and Chase split the cost of a house in Maine, where both would go for years in the future to find inspiration for painting.

Chase went on to achieve fair commercial success, getting work from the larger magazines of the day, sometimes (as with this story on Maine fishing) as author-illustrator. Like Wyeth, he later turned away from illustration, looking to find a deeper meaning and satisfaction in painting. Chase did mostly watercolor work later in his career.

At the end of his life in 1957, Chase had left wishes that his remaining work be destroyed, wishes that for the most part were complied with. It makes the sight of his illustrations that much more of a rare treat.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

From a different corner of the globe

What most of us are exposed to in illustration is somewhat limited—to artists published in English speaking material—there is a whole world out there, most of which has been publishing books as long as Great Britain and the USA have. Some of "our" best artists will find publication in other languages, and some of the best from other parts of the world occasionally "cross over," and get published here. Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942) Was a Russian-born illustrator, who worked on book illustration all throughout most of his career, though sharing that time with stage design in the latter part.

Bilibin's earliest working years were not spent solely in illustration; other employment would contribute to his direction and design sense for the rest of his life. In 1902 he was working for an office of the Russian Museum, to record folk art in the outer reaches of the country. For two years he was a field agent of sorts, observing and collecting the art that defined the Russian culture. It's easy to see how this permeates his work—Architecture, costume, all aspects of regional design, and its importance, all come through in Bilibin's book illustration. His work from then (and before) to the early 1910's, was largely traditional Russian folk and fairy tales.

My first encounters with his imagery came on notecards, (the top image with the wolf-rider has been haunting my bulletin boards for nearly 3 decades...) and a few years later, in the Time-Life Enchanted World Series, where they published the tale of Baba Yaga in the volume on Wizards and Witches. His work has incredible graphic quality, and is very distinct in its appearance, with flat areas of color in a hard drawn outline, somewhat resembling a complex stained-glass sketch. Relative design elements frame many of his illustrations.

Jim Vadeboncouer's Bilibin Bio