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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


The art of Stella Langdale, 1880–1976


Nocturne (aquatint; no date).

One of Callum‘s recent book postings alerted me to the work of Stella Langdale, an artist and illustrator I hadn’t come across before. Judging from online listings her obscurity would seem to be a result of not having being as productive as some of her contemporaries, and her drawings are a deal more gloomier than the delicate pen-and-ink style that was common in book illustration at the time. But it’s her brooding charcoal masses which I find appealing. As with the better Gustave Doré illustrations, they adumbrate more than they depict by the use of careful composition. Some of her other works are aquatints, a form of etching which allows for similar effects to the graded atmospheres of charcoal.

Three of Langdale’s illustrated books have religious themes, The Dream of Gerontius (1916) by Cardinal Newman, Christ in Hades (1917) by Stephen Phillips and The Hound of Heaven (1922) by Francis Thompson. There’s nothing insipid about these renderings, however, some of her views of Hell give Doré a run for his money while the jagged lightning in one of the pictures below looks like a nod back to the apocalyptic visions of John Martin. Other illustrated works included The Little House (1920) by Coningsby Dawson and illustrations for the legend of King Arthur.


The Dream of Gerontius: “I went to sleep”.


The Dream of Gerontius: “Then I was sent from Heaven”.


The Dream of Gerontius: “Take me away . . .”.


Christ in Hades:

“Dreadful suspended business, and vast life
Pausing, dismantled piers, and naked frames.
And further, shapes from obscure troubles loosed,
Like mist descended.”


Christ in Hades:

“To see these nations burning run through Hell,
Magnificently anguished, by the grave
Untired; and this last March against the Powers.”


Christ in Hades:

“Half in the shining sun upright, and half
Reposing in the shadow.”

A Stella Langdale biography
(Note: the 1880–1976 dates for the artist are given in a list of works on the site above. There’s some confusion about this, however, since the biography page says she died in the 1950s.)
The Dream of Gerontius at The Victorian Web
A PDF version of Christ in Hades which includes the illustrations

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The etching and engraving archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Death from above
The apocalyptic art of Francis Danby



Posted in {art}, {black and white}, {books}, {illustrators}, {religion}.

Tags: , , .




20 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Thombeau


    Ooh, I love it!

  2. #2 posted by Wiley


    Hmmm… my first impression would be, like a far more chaste, black & white Franz Von Stuck. Particularly the dominance of shadow, brooding figures, crumbling classical settings, serpents, dramatic compositions, and the like.

  3. #3 posted by John


    Yes, that last picture of a serpent-festooned Christ is very reminiscent of Stuck’s Sin.

  4. #4 posted by Callum


    Hi John,

    Well done for rootling that lot out! Glad I helped add an artist to your list for once rather than the other way round. For the record, I’m not sure the snake-entwined-one is Christ. It might be, but scanning the pages of the poem near to the image in the book it might also be Prometheus – the whole poem weaves Christian and classical references.


  5. #5 posted by John


    You’re right Callum, I didn’t read that part through. There’s the passage about Prometheus then a section about Christ perceiving all mankind half in the sun and half in shadow which is what that illustration represents.

    I’m really surprised that she isn’t better known. But then there’s much great illustration still to be rediscovered from that period, as you know, especially in the magazines where things were often used once then never seen again. I’m redesigning Savoy’s edition of Maurice Richardson’s The Exploits of Engelbrecht at the moment. When we reissued that in 2000 we incorporated all the great illustrations for the stories from their original printings in Lilliput magazine, none of which were included in the 1950 book edition. Without copies of the magazines, all those pictures would have remained unseen and pretty much forgotten.

  6. #6 posted by Michele Matranga



    I just was given a painting from 1963 of Stella Langdale, it was a gift from her to my art and uncle. Looking for material on her , especially what happen to her 100 painting or so that were in a santa barbara hotel in the 60. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


  7. #7 posted by Michele Matranga


    stella could not have died in the 50′s because she lived in santa barbara in the 60 and my uncle knows quite a bit about her, her paintings and her partner. She painted his a picture in 1963. I.S. Langdale.

  8. #8 posted by John


    Hi Michele and thanks for the detail about Ms Langdale’s age. Pretty much all I’ve read about her is contained in the links above. One would hope that her paintings found a safe haven somewhere. Despite the wealth of material on the web many artists are still very poorly-documented. But lack of information doesn’t mean they’ve been completely ignored or forgotten in the real world.

  9. #9 posted by Paul


    Hello. I happened across this website during a random search. I have held a personel interest in Ms. Langdale’s life, works, and history for sometime.

    I formerly resided in Santa Barbara and came across a long disposed collection of her works (various media).

    Over the ensuing years I have learned much about her life, travels, and works.

    Since I have collected copies of several books that she illustrated.

    I am certainly interested in learning more about her.

  10. #10 posted by marnie


    Hi, I am actually part of symposium on May 3rd 2009, where I will be lecturing on Katherine Maltwood, Lily Adam Becks and Stella Langdale. There is currently an exhibit at the University of Victoria, BC on her works and fellow members of the Sketch Club.

    If anyone who has additional information on Langdale’s life please email me,


    Marnie Mandel

  11. #11 posted by Gavin


    I happened across a beautiful painting of Mt. Hood (in Oregon) in an antique store yesterday in Ventura, California. I loved it and purchased it. Signed by ISR Langdale, which, it appears is your Stella. No date, but is clearly pretty old. I found this list of comments from searching her name. I have nothing reallly to add, except that I hope it makes someone feel happy to know that her work, at least some of it, still lives, and will continue to bring joy for many years to come.


  12. #12 posted by Paul



    I periodically check-in on this website. I would love to see a picture of the painting you found. Kudos to you for the find.


  13. #13 posted by Karen


    I have been looking at the book of THE HOUND OF HEAVEN, poem by Francis Thompson and the illustrations by Stella, absolutely awesome. Absolutely Awesome, what talent, what imagination.
    Trying to get hold of a copy of that book now, just to marry up the poem with the illustrations……any help out there?

  14. #14 posted by Karen Wraith


    Does anyone know who holds copyright for Stella Langdale?

  15. #15 posted by Paul D. Smith


    I have a copy of Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven. It is copyright 1922.

  16. #16 posted by Paul D. Smith


    Dodd Mead and Company 1926

  17. #17 posted by Greg L. Biddle


    Can you please tell me who owns he rights to the Langdale art work done for Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven? Is it possible to get permission to use the art work in a public offering of the poem and in the publication of a new commentary on the poem? Thank you.

  18. #18 posted by John


    Hi Greg. For you, and everyone that’s been asking above, I’ve no idea who owns the rights to Stella Langdale’s work or how you’d find that information.

  19. #19 posted by Stewart Rayment


    I’d make a first approach to the publisher of the book, if they still exist. The Bodley Head comes to mind, since they published ‘Unknown Brighton’ (Aitchison) in 1926. Moody.

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