Where I first saw Arthur Rackham’s illustrations is lost now, in the mists of time: I have loved them for as long as I can remember. So when I saw this book on the returns trolley in the library I just had to pick it up.
What makes these illustrations so wonderful? The introduction suggests that is the perfect balance of grace and grotesque. Yes it is, and the wonderful balance of the realistic and the fantastic too.
But I’m not inclined to analyse too much, I just know that they are wonderful!
So who was the man behind them?
A simple, quiet man it seems. His life is set out clearly, and with a wealth of fascinating detail.
Did you know, I wonder that the Mad Hatter in Rackham’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland was a self-portrait?
At first the illustrator struggled for commissions, but soon he was in demand. He could pick and chose. Later he could even create his own projects. How many illustrators can do that?
Towards then end of his life his popularity dipped a little. Woodcuts were in vogue.
But Arthur Rackham never quite went away. His work is still in print today, seventy years after his death.
It’s quite a legacy.
James Hamilton’s book is beautifully written and clearly very well researched.
It is supplemented by a detailed bibliography, a chronological list of rackham’s work and a fascinating account of how an illustrator makes a living.
It feels definitive to me.
And best of all, it is packed full of wonderful images. And I really can’t resist posting a few!