Arthur Rackham 1867 - 1939 - a self portrait
How serious and respectable Arthur looks in this self portrait, more like an accountant from the 1950's than a man who created such magical scenes of fairytales and myths. But then, he did indeed work as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office before going on to study part time at the Lambeth School of Art.
At the age of twenty five, Arthur left his 'serious' job and began a career in book illustration, devising a gritty, realistic technique which involved sketching an outline in pencil and then blocking in some colour, before adding detail in india ink. Sometimes this 'sepia' monotone look was enhanced with watercolours, building up layers of transparent tints. He also worked with silhouettes and was inspired by Japanese woodblocks.
Fairy on a Spider's Web
A decidely Japanese influence in this illustration taken from Das Rhiengold
The director, Guillermo Del Toro says that Rackham inspired his work, notably the faun in Pan's Labyrinth - as well as the tree that grows out of a Scottish church altar in Hellboy which Del Toro called the 'Rackham Tree'.
The faun in Pan's Labryinth
Arthur Rackham is still inspiring the VV's imagination today while she writes a new novel based on a Victorian artist. His work was very prolific and though filled with romance, it is rarely 'twee'- perhaps due to the clarity and truth of line, which is also something to be said of another favourite illustrator, the contempory artist, P J Lynch.
The Rhienmaidens from The Ring
There is a wealth of Rackham's work to view online, as well as still being available in many children's classic books, from the stories of the Brother's Grimm, and Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland. to the Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, or English Fairy Tales, or Peter Pan, or The Ring - to touch on but a few.
Here is just one of the tributes to his work found on Youtube - Enjoy!