Arthur Rackham

Introduction: Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)

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Under Arthur Rackham's water-colour brush A Christmas Carol (1915) becomes an elegant and amply illustrated children's book, with sentimental scenes from childhood such as Bob Cratchit's sliding on the ice at Cornhill and "mystical and fantastic" (Davis, 333) complementing more telling realisations of Scrooge's spiritual journey from misanthropy towards enlightenment and social integration. Although the seven line drawings fancifully depict such moments as Scrooge's old schoolmaster entertaining the boy and his sister, Fan, Rackham's true achievement in this early twentieth-century edition lies in the luminous and highly imaginative quality of his dozen colour drawings.

Now recognised as one of the principal artists from the Golden Age of British book illustration, Rackham, a graduate of the Lambeth School of Art, provided vigorous pen-and-ink illustrations which he sometimes combined with watercolour wash, which translated well through the process of colour-separated printing. Among his chief achievements in illustrated children's literature were The Ingoldsby Legends (1898), Gulliver's Travels (1900), Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1900)Rip Van Winkle (Heinemann, 1905), and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (Hodder & Stoughton, 1906). Although he continued to work for such British children's magazines as Little Folks and Cassell's, he won international recognition, earning a gold medal at the Milan International Exhibition in 1906 and another at the Barcelona International Exposition in 1912. The chief exhibit of his works was that at the Louvre in Paris in 1914. Although he communicates the modernist experience through his depictions of London, he lived in the suburbs, and from 1920 onward at Houghton in West Sussex, dying of cancer at the age of seventy-two in the family's home at Limpsfield, Surrey.

As opposed to such Victorian illustrators as John Leech and Hablot Knight Browne, Rackham did not require a technically competent steel- or wood-engraver to translate his fantasies to the printed page because he merely had to have his works photographed and mechanically reproduced.

Works

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Bibliography

Barrie, J. M. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: Hodder and Stoughton, n. d.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1998.

_____. The Lives and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge. New Haven and London: Yale U. P., 1990.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: William Heinemann, 1915.

Fantastic Illustration and Design in Britain, 1850-1930. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1979.

Gettings, Fred. Arthur Rackham. New York: Macmillan, 1975.

Appendix A consists of a bibliography of books illustrated by Rackham.

Ray, Gordon N. The Illustrator and the Book in England from 1790 to 1914. New York: Pierpont Morgan Library and Oxford University Press, 1976.


Last modified 17 June 2019