Thursday, March 22, 2012

An Officer of the Society

This ALMOST would have been an entry for the "working class illustrator" column. Some solid work from someone you've likely never heard of. Almost. Then James Gurney (Yes, THAT James Gurney) brought this portfolio of work to our attention at Dover. Two portfolios, actually, originally published in 1920. Two printed portfolios of figure studies, all done from life.

Arthur Ignatius Keller (1866-1924) was one of the founding members of the Society of Illustrators, and became the president in 1903. Better than adequate, Keller was a regular to most of the big magazines of the day, and did some book work as well. His 1906 Sleepy Hollow is a real gem of a find, jammed with details and sketch work, even if perhaps a bit overdone by today's standards. When I was asked my opinion on Keller's drawings from life, I concluded that if Dover would print it, they had already sold a copy to me. His ability to capture a communicative gesture, in both a quick study or in a drawing full of deep shadows and hot highlights—shows a dedication that paid off handsomely.

The original 1920 edition is prints of photographs of the art. The collage type approach that makes up the pages was often uneven in its tone, so for the Dover edition it was decided to even the background, while preserving the line work and the white chalk as well. The two color treatment used to reprint the 90 year old works gives a nice sense of warmth, without flattening out the tone. It's great to have these masterful renderings available for anyone who wants to see them, or study some good drawing. Shown here, 2 pages from the portfolio, a pair of magazine illustrations (?) and lastly, one of the full color plates from that 1906 edition of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Jim Vadeboncouer's Keller bio

A nice lengthy bio of Keller on a site about Sherlock Holmes illustrators—

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