Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Illustrators - a belated Introduction

Don't you love the horse's expression?
I have started an occasional series of posts about illustrated books here. As usual, it's purely idiosyncratic and based solely on what I like myself. As a child I was always surrounded by illustration, and we had copies of various classics - for instance, the "proper" versions such as Alice illustrated by Tenniel: anything else was heresy, although I rebelled later and bought other editions as well. But they are a big part of my heritage, and we still give each other picture books as presents (and my brother has recently brought out a wonderfully illustrated fish book, as much for the pleasure of sharing his delight in them as for anything else, I think, though it still has a powerful conservation message - I should add that the words are his, and the photos by someone else).

Pictures in books have always been immensely important to me and I'm always delighted when I come across an "adult" book which is decorated, even if it's only with pretty swatches or, even better, with little vignettes at the beginning of each chapter. It's one reason why, however convenient it is, and however much easier on the hands, the Kindle will never replace real books for me. Another is cover art, which I also regard as important, even if you can't judge a book by it! We may have the odd post which focuses on covers...

To date in the series I've talked a little about the fashion during the 20th century for woodcuts and lithographs in books, something I'm bound to go back to again, because it was such an important trend. And especially when, as in this Lathrop illustration, it echoes another artform - tapestry - so evocatively. Children's illustration is a major interest, particularly in books for older children - that's in part because there is just so much fantastic art in picture books for little children that it's impossible to keep up (there's a lot of absolute rubbish as well,  but we won't go there...). As for the classics, well, if I could afford Folio Society books I'd probably have a complete library of them for their artwork alone, but I can't, so my look at them will be very selective.  But I'm really glad they are there, and producing illustrated books for people who can afford them. As well as reproducing classic editions, they commission new artwork as well.

Then there are the picture books which are both for small children and for everyone else - the subject of my second post falls into this category. They are works of art in themselves, so beautiful that you go back to them for the sheer delight of handling them, looking at the detail in the pictures, savouring the (usually short) text. I find some of these quite irresistible.

I'm putting a link at the top of the page to this series, and also have a Pinterest board which includes more artwork from the illustrators I've talked about. The board's a bit disorganised at the moment because it's been going for a while, and started before I decided to write about them here, but I'll tidy it up at some stage. And that's it - on with the series, and I hope people enjoy it.


  1. Lovely post; yes really good illustration is important in my mind too, there's nothing like reading beautiful books.

  2. Ooh, I love it! I too am very VERY fond of pictures in books -- I actually just learned today that they're releasing a heavily illustrated anniversary edition of Edith Hamilton's Mythology later this month, so I'm naturally going to have to buy that. It looks glorious. So many color pictures!