Monday, December 19, 2011
If you've followed this blog for some time, you know I'm a big fan of the work of British illustrator H. J. Ford. In conversation with a friend recently , we were discussing that appreciation, when he brought up John D. Batten. (1860-1932). I'd been aware of Batten, but I hadn't really explored his work until this came up.
At times in their careers, the works of Batten and Ford might have been nearly indistinguishable. Primarily line artists, both Batten and Ford often relied on intricate frames to surround their scenes, sometimes with a hand-written caption. Both worked in mythology and fairy stories—and both formed partnerships with writer/historians that explored fairy tales, and made minor heroes out of the illustrators to generations of children. The Batten/Joseph Jacobs partnership thrived throughout the 1890s, when they produced six books— English Fairy Tales, Celtic Fairy Tales, More English Fairy Tales, More Celtic Fairy Tales, Indian Fairy Tales, and The Book of Wonder Voyages. Indian Fairy Tales, in particular, yielded some great pieces of ink work. The last three here are from that book—"The Demon with the Matted Hair" is a fantastic piece of creature design. Tusks and a beak. During my undergrad work, long ago, I did a large ink piece with a complex Celtic frame—which I realize now, was modeled after Batten's style.
My first semester teaching History of Illustration and Animation has wrapped up, and I hope to invest more time in the blog again to help it happen more regularly. Have a great holiday.