Fairy Tale Friday: Fairy Tale Illustrations
For my post this week, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate fairy tale illustrations. In my humble opinion, they are often the most beautiful and evocative illustrations provided in books, perhaps because of the inherent magic and creativity of the stories themselves.
There about a million wonderful illustrators I could call out, but I’m just going to touch on my favorites and hopefully you all will chime in with yours!
Arthur Rackham is probably the most famous fairy tale illustrator, giving us many instantly-recognizable images of fairies throughout his career:
I love the fluidity and denseness of his images, as well as how he associates fairies and magical creatures so firmly with nature. By tying them to the natural world, from the trees to the earth to other animals, Rackham wonderfully suggests the ancientness of magic and fairies, apparently remarking on how they were, like the earth and the stones beneath us, here before humans and may will outlast us.
More recently, Charles Vess has taken up the Rackham flag, notably in Stardust, but elsewhere, too:
Vess’ work seems to me slightly more graphic and comic, as if he’s simplified Rackham’s lines and colored in the remaining cells like an old-fashioned animator. The work is still rich, but lacks the detail of Rackham’s fine lines. (Have I mentioned I’m a secret Victorian?)
To that end, Aubrey Beardsley must be next on my list. He, in my opinion, brings out the darker side of fairy tales beautifully with his black-and-white (okay, mainly black and spidery) illustrations:
Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to two illustrators whose illustrations strike me as immediately classic. They look exactly like what, in my mind, classic fairy tale illustration should.
First, Ivan Bilibin, who I just discovered in researching this post:
I could look at pictures of fairies and fairy tales from the Victorian era pretty much all the live-long day (one more sidebar: if you’re into more stylized fairy tale illustrations, Google Elenore Abbott. She’s completely 1920stastic and does some really lovely, and wholly un-Victorian, illustrations!), so I’ll stop here and ask you for your favorites!
So who is your favorite fairy tale illustrator? And do you have to hand an example?
(And here at the end, I feel I should give a shout out to SurLaLune Fairy Tales which has a phenomenal gallery of illustrations in case you’re interested in seeing more!)