Arthur Rackham is probably the single most influential children’s book illustrator. His delicate watercolors define the image of fairy tales in many people’s minds.
If you aren’t familiar with his work, see Bud Plant’s great capsule biography.
These scans are from a rare first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from 1909. This beautiful book is jam packed with fabulous color plates and ink sketches.
Rackham’s style merges an organic line and earthy color palette with fantastic imagery. He often slipped faces into trees and clouds, adding an extra layer of wonder to his images. His pastoral subjects often seem to be nostalgic for an earlier time, perfect for bringing fairy tales to life.
In animation backgrounds however, the sinewy Rackham line was overly busy, distracting from the characters; so Tenggren evolved towards the more dimensional painting style in Pinocchio, which set the standard for Disney cartoons throughout the 1940s.
At Animation Resources one of our projects is to document the images that acted as inspiration to the artists who created the first animated features. No artist fits that bill better than Arthur Rackham. We’re very fortunate to be able to bring the illustrations from this great book to you. I hope you enjoy them.
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This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.