Illustrating Poe #5: Among the others

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The Conqueror Worm (c. 1900) by František Kupka.

Poe’s illustrators are legion, you could easily devote an entire blog to nothing but depictions of his stories and poems. By way of rounding off this week of posts I thought I’d point to some of the works which have caught my attention over the years, several of them being obscure enough to warrant further investigation.

František Kupka’s drawing is, as far as I can gather, one of a series based on Poe’s poem; this seems to be a related piece. As with many Symbolists artists, you can spend a great deal of time scouring the available resources to find more of their work. We’re told that one of Kupka’s more well-known paintings, The Way of Silence (1903), was inspired by the poem Dream-land.

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Berenice (1905) by Alberto Martini.

Alberto Martini (1876–1954) is a fascinating artist whose work bridges the decline of Symbolism and the rise of Surrealism. He’s also another talent whose work is woefully underrepresented on the web so let’s hope that changes soon. Wikipedia describes him as having produced 135 Poe illustrations of which only a small handful are visible online, and most of the ones that are go unlabelled. I know this one is for Berenice since I have it in a book but any Poe reader should guess the title from those blazing teeth. A few more of Martini’s drawings can be seen here.

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Robert Anning Bell’s Tempest

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British artist and designer Robert Anning Bell (1863–1933) illustrates Shakespeare in this 1901 edition at the Internet Archive and the work seemed to give him an excuse to embellish many of the pages with writhing mer-folk. His adaptation isn’t as striking as William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1914 but then few books are. In style Bell is closer to his contemporary Charles Ricketts with very open line work and no heavy black areas. Ricketts produced his own version of Ariel’s Song to Ferdinand for The Magazine of Art in 1895 but doesn’t seem to have illustrated much more of The Tempest as far as I’m aware, although his Vale Press did issue an edition of Shakespeare’s complete works. It hadn’t occurred to me before how few illustrated editions there are of The Tempest; this seems surprising given the fantastic nature of the story. It might be that illustrated plays have never sold so well despite there having been a number of illustrated Midsummer Night’s Dreams. I’d love to have seen Harry Clarke tackling Ariel and Caliban.

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Also at the Internet Archive is a 1902 edition of Shelley’s poems illustrated by Bell (above) and an 1897 edition of Keats in the same series (below). Great poetry doesn’t necessarily lend itself to illustration so it’s no surprise that these books are less interesting than the Shakespeare.

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Bell later reworked his illustration for Keats’s Ode to Psyche as a painting which he called Cupid’s Visit. I much prefer the drawing to the painting.

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Cupid’s Visit (1912).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Charles Ricketts’ Hero and Leander
Another Midsummer Night
Arthur Rackham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream
The art of Charles Robinson, 1870–1937
William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

Another Midsummer Night

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Another illustrated Shakespeare and another Internet Archive scan. Lucy Fitch Perkins’ adaptation dates from 1907 and while her colour work in this volume is distinctly bland, her ink drawings are styled with some tasty Art Nouveau flourishes. Puck with bat wings is an unusual touch.

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The illustrators archive

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Arthur Rackham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dadd
William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arthur Rackham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Something for the Summer Solstice, the whole of Arthur Rackham’s Shakespeare at the Internet Archive. Rackham’s paintings are classics of the period but for me William Heath Robinson’s black and white drawings are the superior renderings of this story. Happily you can see that book as well.

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The illustrators archive

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A Midsummer Night’s Dadd
William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

Poe at 200

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Poe by Harry Clarke.

Happy birthday Edgar Allan Poe, born two hundred years ago today. I nearly missed this anniversary after a busy weekend. Rather than add to the mountain of praise for the writer, I thought I’d list some favourites among the numerous Poe-derived works in different media.

Illustrated books
For me the Harry Clarke edition of 1919 (later reworked with colour plates) has always been definitive. Many first-class artists have tried their hand at depicting Poe’s stories and poems, among them Aubrey Beardsley, Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham, W Heath Robinson and Edmund Dulac; none complements the morbid atmosphere and florid prose as well as Clarke does. And if it’s horror you need, Clarke’s depiction of The Premature Burial could scarcely be improved upon.

Honourable mention should be made of two less well-known works, Wilfried Sätty’s The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe (1976) and Visions of Poe (1988) by Simon Marsden. I wrote about Sätty’s collage engravings in Strange Attractor 2, and Sätty’s style was eminently suited to Poe’s work. Marsden’s photographs of old castles and decaying mansions are justly celebrated but in book form often seem in search of a subject beyond a general Gothic spookiness or a recounting of spectral anecdotes. His selection of Poe stories and poems is a great match for the photos, one of which, a view of Monument Valley for The Colloquy of Monos and Una, was also used on a Picador cover for Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

Recordings
These are legion but among the outstanding one-off tracks I’d note two poems set to music, Dream Within a Dream from Propaganda‘s 1985 album, A Secret Wish, and The Lake by Antony & The Johnsons. The latter appeared on the landmark Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and also on Antony’s own The Lake EP.

Among the full-length works, Hal Willner’s 1997 2-CD collection Closed on Account of Rabies features lengthy readings set to music from a typically eclectic Willner line-up: Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Walken, Iggy Pop, Diamanda Galás, Gavin Friday, Dr John, Deborah Harry, Jeff Buckley (one of the last recordings before his untimely death) and Gabriel Byrne. Byrne’s reading of The Masque of the Red Death is tremendous and the whole package is decked out in Ralph Steadman graphics.

Antony Hegarty appears again on another double-disc set, Lou Reed’s The Raven (2003), a very eccentric approach to Poe which I suspect I’m in the minority in enjoying as much as I do. An uneven mix of songs and reading/performances, Reed updates some Poe poems while others are presented straight and to often stunning effect by (among others) Willem Defoe, Steve Buscemi, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Amanda Plummer and Elizabeth Ashley.

Films
Once again, there’s too many films but The Masque of the Red Death (1964) has always been my favourite of the Roger Corman adaptations, not least for the presence of Jane Asher, Patrick Magee and (behind the camera) Nicolas Roeg. I wrote last May about the animated version of The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA. That adaptation, with narration by James Mason, is still on YouTube so if you haven’t seen it yet you can celebrate Poe’s anniversary by watching it right now.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA
William Heath Robinson’s illustrated Poe
The art of Harry Clarke, 1889–1931