Feeling very Undancy by Arthur Rackham

During the VV's teenage years, instead of pinning posters of pop stars on her bedroom 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 he looks in this self portrait; more like a stern accountant than the man whose art created scenes of fairytales and myths. But then, he had once been employed as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office, before enrolling in 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 job to work full-time at illustrating books. He devised his own techniuqe, at first sketching a pencil outline and then blocking in some colour, finally using india ink to add the finer details. Sometimes this 'sepia' stylistic theme was enhanced with watercolours, building up the layers in a series of transparent tints. He also worked with silhouettes, inspired by Japanese woodblocks.

A decidely Japanese influence in this illustration from Das Rhiengold

The film director, Guillermo Del Toro, says that Rackham was an inspiration for some of his finest work, most notably the faun in his film,  Pan's Labyrinth. And then, there is the tree seen growing through an altar in the film entitled Hellboy. This Del Toro has referred to as his 'Rackham Tree'.

The faun in Pan's Labryinth

Arthur Rackham was prolific and although his work oozes romance it is never in the least bit twee. 

The Rhinemaidens from The Ring

Today, there is a wealth of Arthur Rackham's work to view online, with his classic illustrations reproduced in many books – such as in the fairy tales collected 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, and Peter Pan, and then The Ring - to touch on but a few of them. 

Do you have a favourite?



  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.