Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale’s illustrated Tennyson

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Drawings from an edition of Alfred Tennyson’s Poems illustrated by British artist Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1872–1945) which was published by George Bell & Sons in 1905. The book was part of a series of illustrated poetry collections that included several books featured here in previous posts: Poems by John Keats and Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley both illustrated by Robert Anning Bell, and The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe illustrated by William Heath Robinson. There was also an edition of Browning illustrated by Byam Shaw at whose art school Ms Fortescue-Brickdale was employed as a teacher. Her Tennyson drawings aren’t entirely to my taste, I’ve omitted the full-page works which are rather static pre-Raphaelite-derived things. Far better are these vignettes whose heavy outlines and sinuous curves resemble both Heath Robinson’s early illustrations and Pamela Coleman Smith‘s famous Tarot card designs. As usual the Internet Archive has the whole book and (should anyone require more Tennyson) Ms Fortescue-Brickdale’s take on that Victorian staple Idylls of the King.

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Vintage eye candy

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Tommies Bathing by John Singer Sargent (1918).

More discoveries from recent image trawls. There’s been plenty of speculation about the sexuality of John Singer Sargent—see here, for example—and this watercolour depiction of relaxing British soldiers would seem to be another of his works which confirms an enchantment with the male form. Lust aside, it’s a remarkable and typically assured sketch in a difficult medium.

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Hermes by Will H. Low (1885).

Will Low’s Greek god is from an illustrated edition of Keats’ Lamia, a PDF of which can be found at the Internet Archive although the compression setting is so severe that the drawings are pretty much ruined throughout. This is how Microsoft and Google are safeguarding the world’s artistic heritage… The copy above comes via another Flickr set.

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Also at Archive.org, and far better quality, is another book illustrated by Will Low, In Arcady by Hamilton Wright Mabie, a rather insipid parable in a faux-Classical manner which gave the artist an opportunity to fill the pages with piping fauns and naked youths. It wouldn’t be fair to paint Low as another closet Uranian like Sargent solely on account of this handful of drawings; for now he can remain a further victim of our salacious modern sensibilities.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

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

Dugald Stewart Walker revisited

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The Golden Porch (1925).

This post was prompted by an email from Deborah Hirsch who wrote to tell me about some original works she’d found by American illustrator Dugald Stewart Walker (1883–1937), scans of which are shown here with her permission. This made me take another look at Walker’s drawings, many of which I’d overlooked during earlier searches. His body of work runs from the usual fairy tale illustration to some very fine renderings of tales of Ancient Greece, and he was also an excellent peacock illustrator although you’ll have to look elsewhere for those; Golden Age Comic Book Stories has made several postings of his book plates. The drawings shown here are from Snythergen (1923) by Hal Garrott, The Golden Porch (1925) and Orpheus with His Lute (1926), both by WML Hutchinson.

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The Golden Porch (1925).

Every so often an artist’s work sets me wondering about their sexuality, a consideration which agitates some, especially surviving relatives, who find such speculation to be unwarranted or vulgar. The matter is relevant for two reasons: firstly, if an artist turns out to be gay or bisexual (as was the case with Hannes Bok) then certain details in their work become informed by that knowledge. Secondly, there’s still a lot more work to be done in retrieving from history the lives of gay people who have added to our culture in some way. Illustrators receive little attention in this area since illustration has always been the poor cousin to gallery art. I try and be wary of projecting my own concerns onto an artist for whom such attention may be unwarranted, and I’m not saying one can read anything substantial into Walker’s life simply by looking at his pictures. I do, however, have a mental checklist for any gay/straight appraisal which includes among its subjects common themes such as Greek myths (especially those concerning Orpheus and Narcissus), a recurrence of nude males, excessively florid décor, etc. Let’s just say that certain aspects of Walker’s work are (as Sherlock Holmes would say) “suggestive”, and the ex libris plate at the end of this post is notable for illustrating Keats’ famous quote about truth and beauty with a peacock and a (nude?) boy. If anyone has any relevant details about Dugald Stewart Walker’s life, as always they’re encouraged to leave a comment.

A Dugald Stewart Walker set at Flickr
Dream Boats and Other Stories (1920) at the Internet Archive

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