Left: Maud (1922). Right: St Simeon Stylites (1900) [Click on images to enlarge them.]
In the preface to A Dream of Fair Women (Grant Richards, 1900) Sullivan wrote 'Between the extremes of an art entirely ephemeral and journalistic on the one hand and a cold aestheticism on the other there is a large field; and an artist is justified if he can find a subject which will at the same time afford scope for the exercise of his art and a wider channel to the public sympathy. ... To endeavour to render concrete the pictures that Tennyson inspires in the fancy would be an essay in which any illustrator might take a delight. ... It was in the anticipation of pleasure in the making and with a hope to convey some share of that pleasure that the present venture was made.' There are forty pen drawings mostly very elaborate in detail, in which the artist has indulged to the full his love of decoration in dress, jewellery, lace embroidery, lamps, censers, flowers and books and his delight in drawing them. All are worked out to the fullest extent: his industry, enthusiasm and patience never tire; and how he loved drawing madonna lilies! Perhaps this elaboration may be considered by some to be a failing. In regarding a work of art one should not be reminded too strongly of the work and effort that went to its making. In some of the drawings of women one is inevitably impressed by this labour before one can admire the excellent results. The methods are those used in Sartor Resartus, and there is a rich variety of blacks. The penmanship is even more confident and is used more freely in the modelling: of the faces and hands, not always with commensurate success. The simpler drawings are often more pleasing. St Simeon Stylites . . . is worthy of the best of the German engravers. 'The Vision of Sin', ignoring the title of the book, affords more opportunities for invention; one drawing in particular aroused the intense admiration of Phil May. That of 'The Goose' suggests that Sullivan learnt something from Boyd Houghton and Rackham much from Sullivan. An excellent, interesting book; Sullivan was still advancing, still experimenting, gaining with each drawing greater power and facility. — James Thorpe, 27-38
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord. A Dream of Fair Women and Other Poems by Tennyson. London: Grant Richards, 1900.
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord. Maud by Tennyson. London: Macmillan, 1922.
Thorpe, James. E. J. Sullivan. London: Art and Technics, 1948.
Last modified 22 December 2012