Choose a language
Use Arthive in the language you prefer
Sign up
Create an account
Register to use Arthive functionality to the maximum

Arthur
Rackham

United Kingdom 
1867−1939
Subscribe67

Biography and information

  Edit
Arthur Rackham (eng: Arthur Rackham; September 19, 1867, London - September 6, 1939, Surrey). The famous English illustrator, who designed the best examples of children's literature, as well as the works “Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream” and “Song of the Nibelungs”.

Features of the artist Arthur Rackham: Rackham's creativity is hard to confuse with anything else. In addition to recognizable scenes, his drawings are incredibly graphic and detailed. The artist borrowed the traditions of German and Japanese engravings, having developed his own style with aristocracy and grace. The works of a talented author at all times attracted not only fans of literature, adults and children, but also artists. His work inspired Walt Disney, Guillermo del Toro (“The Labyrinth of the Faun”) and Tim Burton (“Sleepy Hollow”), who even bought an illustrator's house.

Famous paintings by artist Arthur Rackham: "Alice in Wonderland", "Ring of the Nibelungs","Mad Tea Party", "Undine", "Gulliver in the land of the Liliput people".

From newspapers to book illustration: Arthur Rackham's earlier work


Arthur Rackham was born in the London district of Luis. He was one of Alfred Rackham’s 12 children and his wife Annie, who were able to give their children a good education. Drawing from childhood was a successful "accompanying" Rackham: the future master won several awards for his work while still in school. At 17, Arthur made his first overseas trip: accompanied by two aunts, he went to Australia to improve his poor health. New impressions proved to be a useful bonus for his artistic nature.

At age 18, Arthur himself earned his living as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Service, who sponsored his classes at the Lambeth School of Art.

Soon he left his job and became a reporter and illustrator in the British newspaper Westminster Budget and other publications. But he didn’t like this activity, he called it “unpleasant manual work”. Art critics consider the Rackham illustrations from this period to be very mediocre, slightly different from the general flow. Except perhaps the color gamut, in which even then the future airiness of Rackham’s graphics was read.

The first book project of illustrator Rackham - design of the London guidebook "To the Other Side", published in 1893. The next book with his works Dolly Dialogues was published in 1894.

The collection of fantastic tales "Zankiwank and Bletherwitch" is the first serious work of Arthur Rackham, where he begins to show his individual style, demonstrating the lightness of plastics and elegance of the line that will distinguish all his works in the future. It is in the application to the fabulous, adventure stories the author will develop his talent in full measure.

Arthur Rackham and the golden age of English illustration


The illustration of the fairy-tale collection was the beginning of a bright turn in the fate and career of the artist. But the most important event will occur in 1900, when Reckham meets Edith Starkey, the artist, mentor and her future spouse, who will give birth to his daughter Barbara. His wife became his "most inspiring and harsh critic." It is Starkey who will help Rackham get away from simple color solutions in drawings and explore deeper gradations of color.

Creative impulse arrived just in time. The technical progress in printing has allowed the illustrator to quickly and easily distribute his drawings, avoiding work as a simple engraver. It became possible to accurately and accurately convey all the clarity of dashed lines and the richness of the artist's palette. The level of printing production of illustrations has increased significantly, but the cost of technology was high, which, however, did not worsen the position of the artist. There was a completely new format of the gift edition, which was admired, which was expected, about which letters were written to Santa on Christmas Eve.

The first example of such a colorful edition was Irving's short story Rip van Winkle, published in 1905. Rackham created 51 illustrations for her and was called by critics "the leading decorative illustrator of the Edward era."

The process of creating the works was special, and the whole essence of the Rackham illustration is seen in it. First, the wizard draws thin lines with a simple pencil, and on top he covers the drawing with a more dense layer of ink. The light veil of watercolor in the art-nouveau style covered the sheet and created an even greater feeling of airiness and fantasy.

James Matthew Barry - the author of the fairy tale about Peter Pen, was delighted with the work of Rackham and asked the artist to illustrate his very first story about an adult boy, Peter Pan in Kensington Garden. And it was incredible not only creative, but also commercial success. The publication immediately became the “outstanding Christmas gift book of 1906” and simply the most beloved children's fairy tale of all times.

The next step was "Alice in Wonderland." It was published in 1907 and today is in second place by the number of illustrated reprints of the cult tale. On the first one is still a publication with classic illustrations by John Tenniel.

Published in 1908, The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book ("The Book of the Fairies of Arthur Rackham") became one of his most famous publications, where “Knotty trees and fairy crowds turned thousands of readers into reality”. In general, trees are individual characters in the world of Rackham. These wriggling and anthropomorphic creatures live their lives and accompany fantastic and frightening tales from book to book. "Animated trees" do not give rest to contemporary artists.

In 1914, Arthur Rackham held a solo exhibition in the Louvre. It was the peak of popularity and demand for Rackham, he had so many orders that sometimes he had to give up new tasks. He sincerely regretted about one such order. It was the very first release of Kenneth Graham’s fairy tale Wind in the Willows, a very tempting project. And yet the illustrator abandoned him in favor of another order, no less important and significant: Reckham had to have time to finish the work on Shakespeare's comedy “Midsummer Night's Dream”.

Many critics agree that the most vivid and unusual works of the illustrator can be found in the editions of the fairy tale about the aquatic spirit “Ondine” of 1909 by the German romance man Friedrich de la Motte Fouquet, “Rheingold and Valkyrie” by Wagner, and the tales of the Grimm brothers. And without that, the mysterious and eerie stories thanks to Rackham's drawings have changed: they have become even more attractive and supernatural, with disgusting trolls and captivating nymphs, as if descended from pictures of pre-Raphaelites, but without vulgar borrowing.

“His paintings seemed to me to come alive with music, which plunged me into the depths of my delight. I wanted little in my life, like this book. ” - the author will write "The Chronicles of Narnia" K.S. Lewis on a series of illustrations for the Nibelungen Ring, created in 1910-1911.

Mature years. Top of the career of Arthur Rackham


After World War I, Rackham's fame began to spread across the ocean, from which new orders flooded. He designed the works of Washington Irving, Christopher Morley and Edgar Poe.

Rackham's career continued to go uphill, the author did not lose his individuality in illustration and attentiveness in business matters, while continuing to treat each order with care and responsibility.

In 1936, the master was waiting for a special success. Having refused to work on Kenneth Graham’s tale at the beginning of the century in favor of Shakespeare, he could not miss the opportunity for the second time. But if the artist’s creative fuse did not run out, his health was declining. Taking up the long-awaited order, weakened and exhausted, he finished it with difficulty. And yet the artist reworked the drawings many times, trying to achieve the ideal result, paying attention to the little things that seemed insignificant to others. The book "Wind in the Willows", decorated with drawings of Rackham, became a masterpiece of children's illustration, a symbol of purity and sincerity of the Victorian tale.

In 1939, Arthur Rackham died of cancer at his home in Limpsfield in Surrey.

Not just on paper: Rackham illustrations today


Rackham became one of the most popular and favorite English illustrators. But his work was not left only a symbolic milestone in the history of art, but continues to live and develop in the works of modern authors. This applies not only to artists and illustrators, but also directors and animators.

Walt Disney, admiring Rackham's watercolor and the grace of his line, instructed his main illustrator, Gustaf Tenggren, to create images of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when creating the cartoon "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". However, for the animation of Rackham were too florid and multivalued, they could distract from the plot and the main characters. And Tengren created his own, measured and familiar Disney style of drawing. However, the motives of the great illustrator can be easily seen in the frames of a night scene in the forest or in a fragment of the eerie reincarnation of the queen-stepmother. Recognizable living trees are the favorite characters of all Rackham fans.

Fans find motifs even in Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.

In 2008, shortly before work on Alice in Wonderland (2010), well-known American film director Tim Burton acquired Arthur Rackham's Gothic mansion in London for £ 6 million. The atmosphere in the house was saturated with mystery and secrets. In his interview, the director notes with humor that “People definitely believe that they hear strange sounds here at night, and this is a good atmosphere”. But not only real estate binds these two authors. The images of the Victorian illustrator penetrated the series Sleepy Hollow (1999), created after the work of Irving, which, by the way, Rackham also illustrated. Yes, and the general mood of the paintings by Burton, a little crazy and otherworldly, is very close to Rackham.

Guillermo del Toro - the director of the world-famous film “The Fawn's Labrint” (2006) created his fantastic images thanks to the tales of Rackham. Unimaginable wriggling trees, the harsh wilderness and the overall color seemed to have migrated from the pages of books to the TV screen.

Author: Lyudmila Lebedeva
Did you like the article? Share it with friends
  Share    Tweet