Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration

Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration

Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration is a new release with a scheduled official release date of April 1, but my copy arrived on Friday so it is already available. Amazon, for some reason, has the book at 42% off right now and I expect the price to bump back up again any minute. (Ah, the vagaries of Amazon pricing is a constant mystery to me.) So I wanted to post it now in case any of you want to benefit from the great price.

Book description from the publisher:

The definitive and sumptuous biography of the one of the world's most collectible illustrators contains a richly detailed account of his life along with beautifully enchanting pictures

Examining the work of the illustrator Arthur Rackham, this monograph traces his achievements throughout his illustrious career. Rackham's illustrations for such works as Alice in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and Rip Van Winkle have attained the classic status of the writings themselves—and indeed, in some cases, they have become synonymous with them. His works were also included in numerous exhibitions in his lifetime, including one at the Louvre in Paris in 1914. Rackham himself, however, has previously remained a shadowy figure. As well as featuring exquisite illustrations and sketches, extracts from Rackham's correspondence and insightful commentary shed new light on this much-collected illustrator.

This is a beautiful book. It is not a brand new book, it was originally published in 1990 but was out-of-print and became an expensive used book. This new edition is a great way for the author to earn the money he has earned by offering such an excellent overview of Rackham's life and work. And this edition is currently priced much lower than used copies of the older edition.

Hands down, this edition has some of the best quality reproductions of Rackham's work since the original publications of Rackham's work, perhaps even better than some of those. They certainly aren't yellowed with age! They are crisp, not muddy, and even more stunning as a result. A bonus is that the "usual suspects" are not as common here but the book offers many of the lesser distributed, seldom reproduced illustrations, in other words, ones you haven't seen everywhere before. If you own as much Rackham as I do, this book is still a treasure. If you own none or a little, this is an excellent way to start.

Hamilton also shares compelling insights into Rackham's life and work. For being so well recognized in his art, Rackham's life wasn't as well understood until this book was originally published. There's also interesting rather unusual appendices such as "The Business of Illustration and How Rackham Made It Pay" and "Arthur Rackham's Pattern of Earnings." Fascinating stuff. He was more than a genius at art, he was a successful businessman.

Now obviously the book is not about fairy tales as much as illustration and Rackham's personal life but Rackham's contribution to fairy tale illustration as well as his influence on future illustrators in the genre is immeasurable. He's almost a cliche but not really since he is so brilliant. I had to use his work for the blog's design so if you visit the blog site proper, instead of through feeds or Facebook, you see his "Old Woman in the Wood" everyday. I'm thrilled with the book and glad I finally own a copy.

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