John Austen’s Tales of Passed Times

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The retellings of old folk tales by Charles Perrault (1628–1703) became the earliest examples of what we now call fairy tales, but Perrault’s versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella et al have tended to be overshadowed by the more copious works of the Brothers Grimm and their followers. Perrault has attracted illustrators, however, including major figures such as Gustave Doré and Harry Clarke. This edition by John Austen is one of the artist’s earliest books dating from 1922. Perrault collections are often short; this one is only 74 pages but Austen fills the book with many small illustrations and vignettes. It’s a surprise seeing his work in colour when the more familiar drawings are all striking black-and-white. Spot colours help highlight Little Red Riding Hood’s outfit and Bluebeard’s beard. See the rest of the book here or download it here. (Thanks again to Nick for the tip!)

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Walter Crane’s Household Stories

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The ideal follow-up to yesterday’s post would have been David Wheatley’s 1979 film for the BBC’s Omnibus series dramatising the life and works of the Brothers Grimm. This week was the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of the Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales; I’ve never seen Wheatley’s Grimm film which—for the moment—remains unavailable.

There are, of course, plenty of illustrated editions of the Grimm’s collections although the dark tenor of the stories means these have never been as popular as Hans Christian Andersen’s tales. The Internet Archive has editions by Arthur Rackham, Robert Anning Bell and Rie Cramer, as well as a later, more stylised edition by German illustrator Albert Weisgerber whose plates can be seen at 50 Watts. Weisgerber brings some of the darkness to the fore, as in the drawing which shows Gretel about to push the wicked old woman into the oven.

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Walter Crane’s edition of Household Stories was first published in 1881. I’ve always liked the Pre-Raphaelite quality of Crane’s drawings so I favour this book over some of the other British editions. I love the house-shaped title page, and the way he embellishes the borders with details from the stories. The vignettes are as varied and inventive as you’d expect from a man who wrote a study of decorative art.

As for the stories, they can seem surprising today when the more popular Andersen fairy tales have become the versions most people know, and those mainly from anodyne film and TV adaptations. Looking at the Grimm books is like hearing older recordings of familiar folk songs (and the Perrault versions are older still): Cinderella is Aschenputtel, Little Red Riding-Hood is Little Red Cap, Snow White is Snow Drop, and so on. Walter Crane’s edition, translated by his sister, Lucy, contains 52 stories, just less than a quarter of the number in the final Grimm collection. William Morris admired Crane’s drawing of the Goose Girl enough to have it enlarged for a tapestry design. The scanned book can be browsed here or downloaded here.

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Miwa Yanagi’s fairy tales

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Rapunzel (2004).

Emphasising the “grim” in the Brothers Grimm is what Japanese artist Miwa Yanagi achieves with Fairy Tale, a series of staged photos. It’s a familiar approach, of course, mining childhood for a darker subtext, and the effect is reminiscent in places of earlier explorers of this disturbing territory such as David Lynch and Jan Svankmajer. But Yanagi adds some twists of her own, not least the alarming figures of young girls masked to resemble old women. Despite being based on tales from the West, there’s a distinctly Eastern flavour to some of these scenes: in Rapunzel the usual golden locks have become a black torrent which can’t help but seem sinister when one recalls the legacy of supernatural hair in ghost stories like Yotsuya Kaidan.

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There’s a catalogue of these works available although the text may well be Japanese-only. And speaking of Svankmajer, it’s worth noting again that Alice is now available on DVD. David Moats enthuses about the film here.

Thanks to Gabriel for the Yanagi tip!

Previously on { feuilleton }
Kwaidan
The art of Maleonn Ma

The art of Anton Pieck, 1895–1987

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The drawings of Dutch artist and illustrator Anton Pieck are very good for their finely-rendered architectural detail when they’re not being too comic or whimsical. Flickr has a few sets of the artist’s work which is useful since his museum site is rather lacking. The bookselling picture above comes from this set of watercolours while the black-and-white piece is from an edition of Grimm’s fairy tales published in 1930. There’s also a page of smaller drawings here.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Alexander McQueen, 1969–2010

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“He was a Brothers Grimm of fashion, enchanting and captivating the audience with the most incredibly beautiful clothes, only to make their stomachs lurch with the underlying menace that shot through his work. Because every show contained outfits designed to thrill, shock – and catch the eye of picture editors – many people never realised that much of McQueen’s work was, quite simply, heart-stoppingly gorgeous: exquisite tailoring, beautifully sculpted dresses and glorious print.”
Jess Cartner-Morley. (More.)

Butterfly-print dresses (how fitting for Darwin Day), Giger-style shoe designs, skull key chains… Yes, Alexander McQueen was something special.

Guardian obituary | Independent obituary

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