Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Rip Van Winkle
Washington Irving

Arthur Rackham was an illustrator in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was born in London in 1867. He began studying at the Lambeth School of Art at the age of 18, and soon found his passion and calling. The first of Rackham's illustrations to be published in a book were in 1893, in The Dolly Dialogues. Rackham never looked back. From that first publication, illustration was his career until the day he died at age 72, of cancer.

In 1905, when Rackham was 38 years old, he created 51 colour pieces to accompany Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle. The technological advancements necessary to produce colour-separated printing was new, and Rackham's vibrant, lavish style of sumptuous illustration helped propel the edition to the status of instant classic, while simultaneously bringing attention to Rackham and his work, and making a name for him.

A self-portrait by Arthur Rackham
Arthur Rackham self-portrait
Rackham's pieces were known for their luxurious use of colour and keen attention to detail. His styles ranged easily from vivid, bright splashes of colour to more muted, subtle tones. He became a member of the Royal Watercolour Society and mastered the watercolour method of painting, seen in many of his works. Many of the books Rackham illustrated include both his black and white, and colour plates. Some, such as Hawthorne's Wonder Book, include Rackham's experimentation with partially coloured prints, similar to the effect seen with Japanese woodblock art.

Much of Rackham's work depicts gnomes, fairies, goblins or other creatures from mythology, folklore or fable. His work has been an inspiration to many, including film director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) and modern illustrator Brian Froud. Beyond the fantastical natural world, Rackham also found inspiration in unusual places, creating his own artistic interpretations of pieces from music and theater, such as Wagner's operas, or Shakespeare plays.

Whether illustrating whimsical books for children or darker matter for adults, Rackham's imaginative, brilliant illustration style was highly sought after and enhanced any text it accompanied. Rackham died in 1939, and now, more than 70 years after his death, his work is collectable and beloved. Children and adults alike take pleasure in the unique, beautiful art he provided for some of the world's greatest stories.

 

Volumes of Rackham

Snowdrop & Other Tales by The Brothers Grimm
Snowdrop & Other Tales
by The Brothers Grimm
Comus by John Milton
Comus
by John Milton
A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Wonder Book
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
The Tempest
by William Shakespeare
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
The Vicar of Wakefield
by Oliver Goldsmith
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti
Goblin Market
by Christina Rossetti
Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen
Peer Gynt
by Henrik Ibsen
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

Are you lucky enough to own any books illustrated by Arthur Rackham?


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