Monday, May 27, 2013

Unsung Louis Rhead

This is a return I hope that I will not need to repeat. Having been working on VIEW for over four years, I haven't needed to step away this long before—but those of you who are aware of my activities outside of VIEW, may know that I have been deep in a project over the past few months, which has all but engulfed me. I'm looking forward to getting back to VIEW much more regularly again. Here's one that's been stewing all this time.

Born into a family of ceramic artists, Louis Rhead (1857-1926) showed exceptional artistic talent early on, and was sent to study in Paris from his home in England at the age of 13. More study followed upon his return to England, and by 1881, Rhead left the family business of ceramics and began a career in publishing at Cassell in London.

The Snow Queen
Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales and Wonder Stories

Rhead was not long at Cassell before he caught the attention of a New York publishing firm, D. Appleton.  He accepted a position as art director from them, and settled down in New York where he brought an element of Parisian Art Nouveau to an eager American audience.

During the 1890’s, the poster became a popular medium, and Rhead was in a great place to take advantage of it. He became one of the leading figures of the American Art Nouveau movement, and during most of that decade his graphic work regularly appeared in association with "Century Magazine", "Harper’s" publications, and "Scribner’s", among others.

When poster work began to decline, Rhead found new direction in the growing market for book illustration—where he became a contributor in the market of children’s classics. He regularly produced volumes with tremendous amounts of line illustrations, sometimes recalling the graphic styles of his earlier poster designs. Rhead produced many memorable volumes, including Treasure Island, Robin Hood, and Robinson Crusoe.

Rhead’s second passion in life became angling.  It was not long after the turn of the century that Rhead’s artistic talent and his interest in fishing joined—and in the latter part of his career—he not only illustrated numerous books on the subject, but became an expert on it, and an author as well. Illustration centered around fishing found markets in his own books, and in the early sporting magazines of the day, such as "Outdoors", and "Field and Stream".

In 1926 it was a fishing adventure that would end Rhead’s life. After an hour-long struggle with a 30-pound snapping turtle, Rhead landed the turtle, but the strain proved too much for him; he suffered a heart attack. Two weeks later a subsequent heart attack ended his life, at age 68.
King Arthur and His Knights
Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales and Wonder Stories