Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Welcome to Sherwood

In an age before what is now known as "gaming".... before The Lord of the Rings had hit the big screen in any form, there were a different set of mythic heroes. They are still around, but they don't command the stage they way they did in a time before role-playing, blu-ray, and the "six-book series"...

Books that were read over and over, stories told for generations, were some of the tales that got the royal treatment when it came to illustrated editions that appeared near the turn of the last century. One such story that has always grabbed my attention is that of Robin Hood. I've always enjoyed that period in history, and that particular story. Many 1900 era publishers saw the appeal to the tale as well, and many saw fit to add it to their list at one point or another.
Of my illustration collections that Dover Publications has published, most are thematic by artist, but some are compiled by subject. The first of these was Illustrations of Poe, and the Arabian Nights illustrations were particularly well received. There are a half a dozen or so such titles now, but Robin Hood didn't grab the publisher's interest. I've collected quite a few editions, and thought it could be of some value to share them here on VIEW. Comparing how different artists look at the same story helps you find distinctions, that may help your own illustration or just enjoy one group more than another.

Some of my favorites—Walter Crane (top) near the end of his career, did Robin Hood in 1912. H.J. Ford (second) did his as part of The Book of Romance, in 1902. Howard Pyle's version (third) is full of premier quality line work, and was rewritten by Pyle as well, "to better suit the modern reader". Pyle's version is still reprinted today, and is often the version chosen for text when someone else throws their hat into the "Robin Hood Illustrated" ring.

An unusual arrangement took place between Frank Schoonover (fifth) and Louis Rhead, (fourth) where for a decade or so, books were produced with Rhead's line work, and a color Schoonover cover plate—even though Rhead got occasional color interior work. N. C. Wyeth's oil paintings (sixth) are among some of his best works for Scribner's Classics, and Frank Godwin's brilliant color plates from his 1923 edition (last) almost seem to mark the end of the era. (and these are just the tip of the iceberg...)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Uncovering the Working Class Illustrator

Part of my mission here on VIEW has always been to bring to light some of the period illustration that for one reason or another, did not survive the ages. Yes, it's there for us to dig up, but not all of it is as easy to find as Arthur Rackham and Maxfield Parrish. I like finding the "Illustrators that Time Forgot". Most of them did some great work—otherwise they wouldn't have gotten the job in the first place...

Today's subject falls squarely in that category. While he was never a big book illustrator —choosing to work primarily in magazines—that path certainly limited his visible longevity. The few books he did do had little staying power among their titles. Frederick C. Yohn (1875-1933) is a name I've been paging over for years, while I search through old volumes of Scribner's Magazines, Harpers, and Colliers. Yohn was incredibly prolific from about 1895-1920, usually tackling scenes of contemporary living, some light romance, or occasionally the modern war story. (His Spanish-American War works were in high demand at the end of the 1890s) Historic work was also to his liking, and he did many scenes of the Revolution as well. Originally from Indiana, Yohn went on to become of the founders of The Society of Illustrators in NYC.
His skill set, ease with contemporary settings as well as historic ones, and ability, must have made him a reliable work-horse to the publishers that used him.

Pictured here are a WWI poster, three magazine pieces, and a painting that hangs in the Utica Public Library, of General Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany.