Wednesday, June 19, 2013


When I was a child some of my favorite books were the classic fairy tales, but it wasn't because the stories were all that interesting. No matter how the story is told, Cinderella always fits into the slipper. ( As an adult though, I do love a good retelling. For those who have read Confessions of an Ugly Step Sister and Cinder Edna, you'll know what I mean.) The things that I loved about the books were the pictures. It was always so fascinating to see how many incarnations Cinderella could take on. Was her hair black this time? What was she wearing to the ball? What did the Palace look like? I would open the books and just get lost in the images. I had no need to read the words. The illustrations were so detailed I could just feel the story. My childhood was filled with these depictions. I would get lost in the art and not find my way out for hours. Then I'd go back and do it again. 

The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault 1922

It turns out that the Illustrators I loved so much all had one thing in common, they were part of the art nouveau movement that started in the 1890's and lasted through the 1920's. This is called the Golden Age of Illustration. Some of the pictures are quite sexually charged with some adult content, so I also got a sensual education as well. That's what art nouveau is , seeing beauty in the rounded lines and curves that echo nature, and the human body is apart of that. 

1923 edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales
illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren.

As I grew up, I still read, but I thought I was much to mature for the picture books. So my imagination took over, but to be honest, the style in my head was still the same.  My sense of aesthetic was highly influenced by these artists. They laid the ground work for my own artistic expression. The highly detailed pictures have now become my own artwork. Whether it be painting or fashion, it can't just be plain, there has to be a lot of embellishment and texture.

I'll share some of my favorites here, but since I couldn't put all of the pictures I love on this little post, you might want to do some of your own research. These talented artists really are worth getting to know.

  My all time number one favorite is Kay Nielsen. He was a Danish Illustrator that collaborated with Disney from time to time. There is so much going on in these drawings, his work is just so Beautiful!

The Fire Bird

Crinoline and Powder

12 Dancing Princesses

Warwick Goble
An English Illustrator that specialized in Japanese and Asian themes and then he'd put his own romantic, idealized, western spin on them.

The Iron Stove

The Six Swans

Odalisque (google this)

Harry Clarke
He did Illustrations for multiple fairy tales, but I like what he did for Edgar Allen Poe's stories the best. They're a bit darker, the black and white patterns helped me sink into madness, and I LOVE THEM! He was also a stained glass artist in London and his glass is just as detailed and gorgeous as these pictures.
Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”

I can't identify this one, but there's been a head chopping,
 so It might be for Poe's work as well.

Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”

Edmund Dulac
He was a French man studying law at the University of Toulouse , but he got bored, so he became an artist instead. Thank goodness for that. He Illustrated multiple story books and had quite a successful career as an artist.

Sleeping Beauty

Tales from the Arabian Nights

Last but not least is Arthur Rackham
He was thought of as one of the leading artists of the Golden Age. His images were done in watercolor and pen and India ink. They have a kind of photographic feel to them. He was successful in his lifetime, and his art is also a much sought after collectors items.

The ring of the Nibelung

Undine Lost
I still love illustrations for the same reasons as I always did and as an adult I still get lost in them. There are so many other artists who's works I could share, but posts can only be so long. Some honorable mentions are John Bauer, Emma Florence Harrison, H. J. Ford, Gustaf Tenggren, Dorothy Lathrop, and Virginia Frances Sterrett. I can see where they have influenced more contemporary illustrators who have in turn influenced me as well.