Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rackham Illustrates Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods

As a bookdealer it is sometimes possible to become immune to the charms of the popular. There is no doubt about the continued popularity of the big twentieth century illustrators: Rackham, Dulac, Robinson and Nielsen. In fact, sometimes the way in which buyers often ignore the lesser known illustrators can even cause a kind of inverse snobbery to build up in the bookseller's mind: a bias against the big names. I confess I see so many books illustrated by these big names that I had stopped looking at the illustrations themselves. So it was something of a surprise to find myself leafing through the first trade edition of Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods and, as it were, 'rediscovering' some reasons for enjoying Rackham. Of course, the story helps in the first instance, the blond and beautiful Siegfried leaps off the coloured plates like a youthful Adonis. But there is clearly more. Rackham was an astonishingly accomplished watercolourist and developed a style which is recognisable at a hundred yards. I think what struck me most, however, is the reminder this book gave me of the darkness in Rackham's work. It is easy, because he is so popular still, to file his work away in the mind as light and unchallenging: in fact, much of it is far from it. Rackham's imaginative landscape is full of the dark and twisted, and creatures of mutation and shadow.

1 comment:

J said...

It would certainly be nice to have these two books published again in an affordable edition. The cheap reprint that I most often see in secondhand stores has such washed-out reproductions of the art that they would not be worth buying at any price. Unfortunately, though many of the children's books he illustrated have been re-issued, I guess there's not enough market for these...

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