Feeling very Undancy by Arthur Rackham

During the VV's teenage years, instead of pinning posters of pop stars on her walls she had some lovely printed cards, each one with softly rounded corners, and all depicting illustrations designed by Arthur Rackham.

Arthur Rackham 1867 - 1939.  A self portrait

How serious and respectable the artist looks in this self portrait. More like a stern accountant than the man whose stunning art reflected fairytales and myths. But then perhaps the image fits, for Rackham was employed to be an office clerk at the Westminster Fire Office before enrolling on a part-time course at the Lambeth School of Art.

Fairy on a Spider's Web

At the age of twenty-five, Arthur left his office job to work at illustrating books. He devised his own technique, sketching out a pencil outline and then blocking in some colour, before adding india ink to create the finer details. Sometimes this 'sepia' theme would be enhanced with watercolours, gradually building up the layers in almost transparent tints. 

He also worked with silhouettes, inspired by Japanese woodblocks.

A Japanese influence in this illustration from Das Rhiengold

The film director, Guillermo Del Toro, says that Rackham had inspired some of his finest visual work, most notably the faun in the film Pan's Labyrinth. There is also the tree seen growing through an altar in the film of Hellboy which Del Toro has referred to as being his 'Rackham Tree'.

The faun in Pan's Labryinth

The Rhinemaidens from The Ring

There is a wealth of Rackham's work for anyone to view online. His classic illustrations are reproduced in many books – such the fairy tale collections compiled by the Brother's Grimm - Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland - the Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table - the book of English Fairy Tales - or Peter Pan - and then The Ring - which is to touch on but a few. Do you have a favourite book?



  1. He did such beautiful illustrations and who would have thought this vivid, romantic imagination lay behind that exterior. 'Feeling very Undancy' was on my bedroom wall throughout my teens, until it faded so badly that the figure could barely be seen! Lovely to remember it, thanks for sharing. Jane Gray

  2. A pleasure, Jane - these illustrations really do evoke some strong emotions, particularly for those of us who had them on our bedroom walls!

  3. What lovely pictures. Rackham did some interesting and powerful illustrations of Edgar Allan Poe's writings, but I was unfamiliar with his more romantic works. Thanks!

  4. And he illustrated a version of 'Undine'!

  5. I think you point out so well that he obviously lived in his imagination. He was one of twelve children and presumbably developed his (very English) humour and balance from that. Still no one really like him.

  6. Rackham and Dulac are my absolute favourites!

  7. Thank you so much VV!
    His drawings were illustrating many of my dreams too, and I remember now, they did help the anxious kid for being aware of what or who he should have to be dealing with while he was sleeping!... A great artist! A kind of a friend, as he was the only witness of my dreams finally!

    Bonne journee VV!

  8. I love Arthur Rackham's work. I think I am indebted to you VV, for bringing him to my attention a while back. I was very much aware of the illustrations but didn't know who created them. Lovely post.

  9. These are just breathtaking. I've always loved the old time fairy tale books' illustrations. But these are especially wonderful. I like them all, but maybe the "undancy" one at the top grabs me the most in this selection. Thanks for sharing these.