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


 

John Austen’s Hamlet

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The 1922 edition of Hamlet “decorated” by British artist John Austen (1886–1948) is a lot more visible today than it was a few years ago, thanks to a reprint by Dover Publications in their Calla Editions series. The scans here are from an original printing at VTS. Austen’s Hamlet is often rated as his chef d’oeuvre, and with good reason, he manages to lend some visual splendour to a play whose concerns are a lot more introspective than the usual illustration standards of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Masks, swords and skulls are recurrent symbols. Yes, the drawings owe a great deal to Harry Clarke’s example—all those manga faces, spiny fingers and swathes of black—but that’s no bad thing if you can pull it off. If you’re going to borrow a style then you may as well take from the best.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of John Austen, 1886–1948

 


 

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

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2 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by michelangelo

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    I have to agree with Chris Mullen’s assessment: “Nevertheless he illustrated this book where there are too many illustrations, there is an insecure balance with the weight and meaning of the text, and in design terms throughout, hopelessly overblown and inappropriate. That being said, you will be entertained by them”.

  2. #2 posted by John

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    It looks to me like he did this as a show-off piece more than anything; offhand I can’t think of any other illustrated Hamlets. On that level it makes a change from the usual gift book fare.

 


 

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