Thursday, 27 September 2012

ARTHUR RACKHAM THE MASTER ENCHANTER



 

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.
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

18 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I much prefer illustrations like Rackham's. REAL art work. :D

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    1. I think that he shows the darker side of things, what lurks just beneath the surface. His art is much deeper than some. x

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  2. What a fascinating reflection! I entirely agree about the one dimensional bit. I do have to admit that I love Margaret Tarrant most of all (although I didn't know of her until recent years) but Arthur Rackham's illustrations are so very detailed & fascinating too. Thanks so much for sharing them. Much love Catherine x0x0x

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    1. We too love Margaret Tarrant, but are drawn to Rackham more often. We have prints of both artists in the cottage. Margaret's work brings joy and she had something spiritual in many of her paintings too, she is uncomplicated and simple in a loving way, more ethereal than Rackham.

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  3. Hello:
    We are totally in agreement with you regarding Rackham's illustrations. They are technically brilliant and do have an 'otherworldliness' about them which makes them perfect as companions to fantasy literature.

    Another illustrator whose work we very much admire is Arthur Wragg. Very different in style from Rackham but equally powerful in an entirely alternative way. Perhaps you might like to look him up if you have not heard of him or seen his work previously?

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    1. Thank you! Had not previously had the pleasure of 'meeting' the work of Arthur Wragg. Having had a brief look just now, really love his Alice illustrations! Although his work is different from Rackham, I can see similarities as well in the detail and strong characterisation. Always wonderful to find new inspiration. x

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  4. I love this post..as i too am a Rackham fan, always had a slight penchant for the dark and mysterious as a child, my favourite book was Alice in wonderland, all that obscure dreaminess and otherworldy tails, i never really liked the flat one dimensional stuff.....still like that now.
    Great post Pixie x

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    1. Thank yoou Pixie! Glad you enjoyed this post. Rackham really is magic isn't he?
      Minerva x

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  5. I too was more Enchanted as a Child {and even now} with the Older Illustrations and Books with a Darker side of Fantasy. As well as the Old TV Shows such as The Addams Family and The Munsters... I wanted to live in Creepy Old Mansions like that and Decorate my Home in such Eccentric Oppulence! *Winks... and now I have! LOL* I remember the Fog we used to get when we lived in Great Britain... I LOVED the Foggy days... it rarely happens here except in the Agricultural areas and then not nearly as thick as England & Wales! There was just something about Fog that I find to be eerie and yet Peaceful, Solitude and Suspense intertwined because you can see Nothing thru it. Thanks for stopping by... I'm glad you've enjoyed Joining me Virtually to Attend the "Wicked Faire" Event. I'll be Decorating for Halloween now so we'll be Transforming this Ole' House into something a bit more Macabre and Fun.

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

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    1. Dawn, We grew up watching the same tv! I loved that house in the Adams Family. Had not known that you lived in Britain, must have a chat about that one day. Look forward to your Halloween decorating. Minerva x

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  6. Dear Minerva,
    thank you for that great tip! I (and by that Son) know a lot of English children books - but I missed out on Arthur Rackham. A wonderful opportunity to mend that.

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    1. Brigitta, You will enjoy his work so much, it is vast and wonderful! x

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  7. I am intrigued by the connection you highlight between Rackham's illustrations and the season of mist and moldering leaves. I think that only a few of his illustrations were included in the children's anthology of literature that I loved to tatters as a child, but you make me want to look at them with more attention now -- not that I could ever make up for what was missed in those foundational years and which you so aptly evoke.

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    1. The Autumn season link to Rackham is interesting to me, although he did illustrate some magnificent summer themes also. It's always great to be able to go back to our childhood reading and books are the most perfect portals. Minerva x

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  8. ahhhh, i love the images you chose--he was amazing! i had never heard of nicola, but now will go and seek out her work, as i love that storm cat. i didn't realize rackham's house had such an interesting spell, as well!
    that alice book would be a treasure!!!

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    1. I think that some houses and places seem to attact creative people and Rackham's house is certainly one of those.
      Minerva x

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  9. I have Arthur Rackham's book about Peter Pan. Funnily enough I was only thinking about it a few days ago. I was given it as a child and the illustrations are so wonderful,I must get it out and look through it again!
    Sarah x

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    1. Sarah, So lucky that you still have it! Minerva x

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