Have a fairy tale lover or a fantasy art fan on your list? Or maybe just a collector of coffee table books? Either way, Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration by James Hamilton is a great gift. You may not be familiar with Arthur Rackham by name, but you’ll most likely recognize some of his work. Rackham was a master of wizened trolls, gnarled trees, and transparent fairies.
Working in pen, ink and watercolor, Rackham’s work is vividly imaginative, often dark, and loaded with elegant details. According to Wikipedia, director Guillermo del Toro cites Rackham as a visual influence in the DVD special features for both Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy.
Born in 1867, a young Rackham sketched late into the night under the covers, and after he was caught and scolded, would sneak in just a pencil and draw on the pillows. He later eked out a living drawing caricatures and painting portraits, etc, until he became successful as an illustrator, developing a relationship with Washington Irving. He eventually brought the original Rip Van Winkle to life in 1905. Among the other classics illustrated by Rackham (but not all originally) are Gulliver’s Travels (1900), Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1900), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907), A Christmas Carol (1915), Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1935), and The Wind in the Willows (published after his death in 1940).
I got this book as a somewhat random Christmas present back in 1999, but I quickly fell in love with the illustrations and can now immediately recognize any works by him, many of which are online. By the way, my version of the book has this more impressive image on the cover, entitled “Suddenly the branches twined round her and turned into two arms”, from Little Brother and Little Sister (1917), by the Brothers Grimm. Here is another favorite of mine included in the book: “Jewels from the Deep“.
I recommend this book for anyone with great imagination.
Image via Amazon