Arthur Rackham (19th September - 6th September 1939)
I cannot allow September to leave us without paying tribute to Arthur Rackham who was born and died in this misty month. In England September seems to be more than just a month, it's a Season of it's own, in between Summer and Autumn. English Septembers are wet, chilly, windy and yet also warm. Occasionally enfused with a bright light which seems to penetrate the mist. It's not quite dark, not October, it hangs on the threshold, like Twilight, just hinting at the spooky things that will come later.
Last night our village was bathed in a thick fog that the few street lamps just penetrated. The trees on the village green, nearly bare now, took on a twisted and gnarled appearance. Shapes scuttled about in the dim glow of the lamps. The light in the windows of the old Inn on the main road looked inviting and figures hurried along towards it's safety.
This was the world which Arthur Rackham inhabited and which I have always loved.
Everyone has their favourite childhood books, stories read to them by their elders and illustrations looked at again and again. Some prefer the 'kind Faerie' sweet countenance of illustrators like Margaret Tarrant or Molly Brett to the 'scary Faerie' world of Arthur Rackham. But not me.
When I was a child Disney was all the rage. Children's books were modern, brightly coloured and suitable for those of a nervous disposition under the age of six.
The images were flat and one dimensional. There was no one to be frightened of, the Wicked stepsister, Queen or Witch simply wasn't wicked. Nothing was hiding under the bed, in the wardrobe or behind that tree. It was safe to go down to the woods. But I missed the Wolf. It was as if the world of Faerie which I had come to know from the old, tattered and dusty books from the school library had been censored and tamed.
It was the old books which enchanted me, made me respect Fairy Tales and look deeper into their meanings. They were often the last thing I put down at night and the first which was picked up the next morning. They filled my dreams, and yes, nightmares. But they gave me a grounding for the terrors and triumphs of real life too.
Several illustrators captured the characters I shared the twilight hours with in the way that I imagined them - or, did I imagine them in this way because those illustrators gave me the visions? I'll never know, but for me Arthur Rackham was The Master Enchanter.
And it seems entirely appropriate that other artists have also fallen under the Rackham spell. Illustrator Nicola Bayley lived in the studio at the top of his North London house when she began her career and remembers it as all black wood and leaded windows.
|The Mousehole Cat illustrated by Nicola Bayley. This is the Great Storm Cat.|
|Nicola and her husband shot by Mercer Design. |
Today the same house is owned by Film maker extraordinaire Tim Burton and his beautiful and eccentric wife Helena Bonham-Carter. I'm sure Arthur would have approved very much.
The Wiki page for Arthur Rackham