Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm with illustrations by David Hockney was recently released in a new edition. The official release is March 1st, but it is already shipping, has been for weeks actually.
Reprinted for the first time since its original publication in 1969, David Hockney’s illustrations for the tales of the Brothers Grimm are like no other version. Although inspired by earlier illustrators of the tales, including Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac, Hockney’s extraordinary etchings reimagine these strange and supernatural stories for a modern audience, capturing their distinctive atmosphere in a style that is recognizably the artist’s own. Hockney’s book brings together some well-known tales, such as Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, with others that are less familiar, like Old Rinkrank. Informed by great art of the past, attuned to idiosyncrasies of character and incident, and fresh in execution and content, his illustrations invite us to read each story as if for the first time.
David Hockney (b. 1937) is an internationally acclaimed artist. He studied at Bradford School of Art from 1953 to 1957 and at the Royal College of Art, London, from 1959 until 1962. He has lived in Los Angeles since 1963 but now splits his time between the United States and East Yorkshire, where he grew up.
That's helpful but not as much as I wanted to know about these illustrations that appear every so often around the internet. So I went ahunting, briefly, since my time is limited right now. First, most of the images from the book are available for viewing and even purchase on Hockney's website. That is where I captured some of the images I am sharing today.
Hockney's website also has an article about the illustrations, Six Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm, 1969 by Peter Webb (27 Jun 2003) excerpted from Webb's book, Portrait of David Hockney.
David Hockney had always loved Grimm's Fairy Tales and had read all 220 of them. He also admired earlier illustrations to them by Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. In 1969 he decided to make his own images. He especially enjoyed the elements of magic in the tales, and his images focus on his imaginative response to the descriptions in the text rather than attempting to concentrate on the most important events in the narrative. They are therefore more than simply illustrations: they stand on their own as images, independent of the stories.
For instance, Hockney chose Old Rinkrank because it starts with the words ‘A King built a glass mountain’, and he was fascinated by the problem of drawing a glass mountain. He made various attempts, even smashing a sheet of glass and drawing the ragged pieces piled up in a big heap, before finding the solution: he depicted a tree and a house with a glass mountain in front which distorts their reflection. For other images, he turned to earlier artists for inspiration: Uccello for the Prince on horseback in Rapunzel, Bosch for the Enchantress with the baby Rapunzel and Magritte’s surrealist games for the room full of straw in Rumpelstilzchen, as well as Dürer and Leonardo.
Hockney's images are exuberant, inventive and memorable, and he now considers them to be one of his major successes.
Here's the list of all six tales he illustrated which appear in the book:
The Little Sea Hare
The Boy Who Left Home to Learn Fear