5 December 2017

Arthurian illustrations

A large part of my interest in the medieval fantasy that can be found in the games I mostly play (WFB, Dragon Rampant, my Averaigne Basic Fantasy/D&D campaign, Knights' Quest and various other dungeon-crawling games) is the combination of folkloric and chivalric legends. In some ways I'm quite Victorian in my enthusiasm for chivalry and its modern incarnations of gentlemanly conduct, while recognising the sometimes restrictive gendering aspects that don't sit well with some. I'm also a big fan of the works of painters such as Burne-Jones and other pre-Raphaelites, with their medievalism. When the two combine, I'm a happy man - and I've discovered a new artist that hits the spot that I wanted to share.

Katharine Cameron, a member of the Glasgow Art School in the late 1890s, worked as a book illustrator (among other things) and for me captures that slightly naive, watercolour/stained glass effect (I'm sure there's a proper artistic term for that). What caught my eye were these illustrations she did for Mary MacGregor's 1907 Stories of King Arthur's Knights that formed part of the Told to the Children series.






Lovely, aren't they? If you'd like to see them in context with their stories, the whole thing is available to read online as part of Project Gutenberg.

What other little known painters and/or illustrators do you know of that might appeal to me?

9 comments:

  1. Check out East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It's a beautifully illustrated collection of Scandinavian myths that dates back to the late 19th/early 20th century. Kay Nielsen's art is cracking!

    There's also Arthur Rackham and John Singer Sergeant who are worth a peek!

    All the best!

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    1. I love Rackham and JSS, but Kay Nielsen is new to me; a quick Google search suggests I've got a new addition to the Christmas list! Thanks.

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  2. Glorious art work!
    Pauline Baynes,Rodney Matthew ,Jessie M King and Harry Clarke are well worth a peep.
    Cheers
    Alan

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    1. Pauline Baynes - yes! Rodney Matthews - Elric, right? I don't know the other two, at least not by name. Thanks, Alan.

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  3. Just the sort of imagery that describes what I see in my mind's eye when I think of 'fantasy' (as opposed to the modernist, cartoonish WoW take that seems to predominate). To those artists recommended by the commentors above I should like to add Ivan Bilibin and Arthur Pyle as fine purveyors of images that wonderfully - one might say almost magically! - convey the folkloric and mythological aspects of their subjects.

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    1. Oh, I should have added Pavel Orinyansky's 2000 illustrations for Pushkin's 'Ruslan and Lyudmila'!

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    2. Oh, I like Bilibin, he's a bit like Orinyansky, isn't he? I've got "The Golden Cockerel" by P.O., but Bilibin is new to me! Thanks for that, Gareth. I had a feeling this sort of thing would be right up your aesthetic alley. I have some Pyle prints and agree entirely about the feeling they evoke.

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  4. They are lovely. Not seen Katharine Camerons work before. Can't beat Aubrey Beardsley - although a little starker than the territory mapped out here. More modern, see if you get on with Victor Ambrus Robin Hood and King Arthur.

    But the main reason I came was the Arthurian theme, have you seen Tom Meiers arthurian miniatures? they seem very much in the romantic, picture book style to me. Under 25mm Common Folk and 25mm Legendary figures. Going off sale at the end of the year, so be quick. https://www.thunderboltmountain.com/

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    1. Aubrey Beardsley is wonderful, right enough. His Morte d'Arthur always makes me think of the Kelmscott Chaucer with its Burne-Jones and Morris, but with the seeds of art nouveau, particularly in the faces. Actually, I see hints of Beardsley in your work, with its woodcut-esque stylisation.

      Victor Ambrus... that takes me back. As a goody-two-shoes in primary school, failing to return his Robin Hood to the school library was about the only time I got in trouble. I read and reread that book till it almost fell apart. I hadn't realised he'd done Arthur as well!

      Tom Meier's Arthurians (and his wood elves and goblins, come to that) are lovely. It's a shame he's shutting up shop, and that US->UK postage is so high!

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