The familiar characters of the Commedia dell’arte—Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot et al—are depicted here by British illustrator John Austen for The Adventures of Harlequin (1923), a prose recounting by Francis Bickley of events in the life of the trickster character. Or a life… Since Harlequin has only ever been a theatrical archetype Bickley has to employ considerable invention to flesh out the details. The enterprise may be a questionable one but I’m always happy to see another book illustrated by Austen, especially when so many of his illustrated editions remain difficult to find. A Pierrot figure appeared in the first of these, The Little Ape and Other Stories, at a time when Austen’s drawing style was closer to Harry Clarke in its use of decorative detail. His style continued to evolve throughout the 1920s. Here it’s closer to George Barbier, the French artist who drew his own Commedia dell’arte trio when illustrating Michel Fokine’s Carnaval for a ballet portfolio, Designs on the Dances of Vaslav Nijinsky.
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Given the religious theme I ought to have posted this last week. Everyman and Other Plays (1925) is a collection of three medieval plays—Everyman, The Nativity and The Shepherd’s Play—illustrated by British artist John Austen. The scans are from a recent auction at eBay by silver-gryph, some of whose other book scans have appeared here in the past. Austen was a prolific illustrator but many of his books have been out of print for decades, and the drawings can be hard to find online. This is one volume I’d not seen before, not as impressive as some of his earlier works but the minimal colouring works well. The printed book will look a lot more striking since the dull greenish tones are gold ink. There are more plates and vignettes on the auction page. (As before, thanks to Nick for the tip!)
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The Swing by Alan Odle.
The University of Heidelberg has for some time now had several years of British art magazine The Studio in its archive but I’ve yet to delve fully into the later issues. These illustrations are from two articles from the volumes covering the year 1925, both of which feature the exceptional Irish artist Harry Clarke. In the first piece Clarke is present along with two contemporaries, John Austen and Alan Odle; the second is a review by novelist Dorothy M. Richardson (Alan Odle’s wife) of Clarke’s illustrations for Goethe’s Faust. All three artists owed an artistic debt to Aubrey Beardsley, and an earlier number of The Studio features a drawing by John Austen of Scheherazade in his Beardsley-derived style. (Thanks to Nick for the tip!)
Columbine by Harry Clarke.
Atalanta in Calydon by John Austen.
Continue reading “Harry Clarke and others in The Studio”
Edmund Dulac’s illustrated edition of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales was published in 1910, and like John Austen’s version this is another one I hadn’t seen before. The adaptation by Arthur Quiller-Couch drops many of the less familiar stories such as Riquet of the Tuft and The Ridiculous Wishes to leave only Sleeping Beauty, Blue Beard, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. A century later, three of those stories are now overly familiar thanks to Disney and co. while the wife-murdering antics of Blue Beard render him irredeemable for children’s entertainment.
The most notable thing about Dulac’s typically excellent illustrations is the degree to which he pushes the style and decor to his beloved Middle East. There’s no reason why many of these stories shouldn’t be situated outside Europe when some of them have very distant Middle Eastern origins but this is unusual for Perrault where the tendency is to use settings based on the Europe of the author’s own time. Browse the rest of the book here or download it here.
Continue reading “Edmund Dulac’s Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales”
After posting John Austen’s Perrault illustrations I intended to follow-up with other versions but work has been non-stop lately so it’s taken most of this month to do so. Harry Clarke’s edition of Perrault was published in 1922, and while it’s not exactly unfamiliar its one of his illustrated editions that gets overshadowed by the grotesque masterpieces of Faust and Edgar Allan Poe. This is Clarke employing his most delicate Beardsley-like style, the only hint of anything unwholesome being the animated black pudding that fixes itself to a woman’s nose in The Ridiculous Wishes. Bluebeard, by contrast, seems a delightful fellow despite his unfortunate wife-killing propensities.
I’ve only included the colour plates here but the copy at the Internet Archive contains many full-page black-and-white drawings along with vignettes. The plate showing Cinderella and the Prince has been stolen from their edition so I’ve added a scan from my own copy of the book.
Continue reading “Harry Clarke’s Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault”