Saturday, May 12, 2012

Second Generation

It is not that uncommon for a group of siblings to grow up to be artists (in this case, illustrators) together. Growing up in a house that encouraged creativity, spurred on by a desire to outdo each other, families like the Robinsons, the Brocks, and the Leyendeckers, all yielded more than one successful career illustrator. On what seems to me to be be a somewhat rarer occasion, a child follows in the career of the parent. I don't think this happens as frequently due to the fact that following a parent—who has a generation of experience more—would often seem an insurmountable task for a child to form their own identity. (Though sometimes following a path already blazed is the easier route)  If it does happen, there is often some deviation in market or medium, to take advantage of the positives, while eliminating the direct competition.

Here is a British artist who followed after his father in the earlier part of the Golden Age of Illustration. Gordon Frederick Browne, (1858-1932) was most active in the 1880-1905, when line was still the king, and color was going through rapid changes in process and application. (Of a similar era to Walter Crane) While Browne was successful and prolific in his day, he had followed after a previous generation—his father being Hablot Knight Browne. Those who are fans of Charles Dickens' early illustrated works would be familiar with work of the elder Browne, who worked under the pseudonym of Phiz.

Always ready to explore some mythology, George Frederick Browne's Norse pieces here come from 1913's The Book of The Sagas. It is plain to see how much more comfortable he was with his line work— the loose, fluid forms, and his mastery of understanding value in ink contrast sharply with the rigid uncertainties that came with exploring early color reproduction. The younger Browne illustrated hundreds of books and worked for the British magazine's of the day, such as The Illustrated London News, Cassell's, The Pall Mall Magazine and Puck. The last of the six images is from a volume of fairy tales Browne had collected himself, which features a very unusual take on Beauty and the Beast.

Thanks to Bill O'Connor for the lend of the Saga material.

Also in the news—my upcoming Dover profile on W. Heath Robinson, and his early works has just been announced for next February. This will examine his more traditional works, before the humorous contraptions and cartoons that made up the latter part of his career became the major component of his output.

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