Friday, 23 March 2018

Illustrators of the Faerie Queene

I have a limited number of images for all of these artists and a staggering number for Walter Crane, the titan of the Faerie Queene. When possible I will try to counterpoint scenes from the book drawn by different creators to see how they each envisaged it. Most of these comparisons will come from Crane

William Kent- 1751

The first edition of the Faerie Queene in 1590 has a woodcut of Redcrosse. You can see that here. But for the first illustrated edition, we must go about 150 years on to 1751 and the edition illustrated by William Kent.

It seems very appropriate that he should be the one to illustrate this highly patriotic, half-good, half-awful book should be the dominant artist of his day, who was also considered to be both good, and fucking terrible. (Excellent article here.)

Quote; "However, Kent has also been described (usually by the same people) as an 'opportunist' whose work was 'often third-rate or disastrous'6, an over-rated sycophant who hid his lack of talent behind 'civil and obliging behaviour'7. In this view Kent was a terrible artist whose paintings were 'below mediocrity' and whose portraits 'bore little resemblance' to the sitter8. He was the creator of 'preposterous' designs, 'terrible glaring'9 interiors and 'clumsy' features that were 'a great waste of fine marble'10"

I am 90% certain that if I was alive at the same time as William Kent I would *fucking despise* him.

But, I'm not. So I can afford to be cool about it.

Redcross Knight and Una invited by Subtle Archimago to his Cell. William Kent

In closeup

The House of Pride - William Kent

zoooooom - sorry about the blur, low re image

William Kent (1685-1748), 'Belphoebe kills the Savage Man',

Cranes version of this scene.

Walter Crane 1895

The craze for painting the Faerie Queene starts only a few years after Kents illustrated edition. You can see that in the previous post on painters. That goes on all the way through the 18th and 19th centuries then BOOM, stops dead (so far as I can see) on the borders of the 20th Century.

Right before that, Superman enters the scene.

Walter Crane does seem rather superheroic compared to every other illustrator. Really, just read his lengthy wikipedia page. Quasi-anarchist who bombed his chances in the U.S. by questioning the guilt of (alleged) anarchist bombers, closely aligned with William Morris, illustrated 'How to Dress Without a Corset', and just did a whole, whole bunch of stuff. He seems like a guy I could dive into for a while.

But amongst his other magnificent acts he also illustrated the Faerie Queene, and did probably the most complete illustrations for it.

Here's his interpretation of the above scene;
Walter Cranes House of Pride

I may cut out some of his interior images so that we can see them more clearly in closeup. BUT - I'm very uncertain about the validity of doing so. Crane was deep into page construction and stuff that, in the OSR today, we would call layout issues. His 'decoration' is almost certainly meant as a meaningful and necessary part of the image and he put a huge amount of work into it.

Anyway - here's Walter Crane as a child, painted by his father. Because the Victorians were some trippy dudes;

Here's Cranes Arthur fighting Orgoglio

Here's cheery, fat old William Kent's version;

And some more Crane

Agape begs the fates closeup

Britomart bombs through the magic fire

Malegar by Walter Crane

Henry Justice Ford - 1905

Ford was a very prolific illustrator of Fairy Stories, mainly in the late 19th Century, in particular for doing a whole range of colour-coded 'Fairy Books' with Andrew Lang.

One of these, I think the 'Red Fairy Book' tore a few incidents out of the start of the Faerie Queene, so we only have a few relevant illustrations from Ford and, unfortunately, they are exactly the wrong shape for a blog.

Redcrosse in Errors Cave - Henry Justice Ford

Arthur v Duesse, Henry Justice Ford

The Dragon Grabs Una's Parents - Henry Justice Ford.
(This either happened offscreen in the book or didnt happen at all.)

Unfortunately, I can't find a lot of images from other artists for these sections for comparison.

If you want to see a whole lot more from Ford - MONSTER BRAINS DID A WHOLE POST ABOUT HIM.

Gertrude Demain Hammond - 1909

I could find out very little about Gertrude and I only have one image from her;

Gertrude Demain Hammond (I think)
All I know is that she illustrated this book with stuff from the Faerie Queene by Lawrence H. Dawson.

Here is Britomart viewing Artegall in that magic mirror by Walter Crane;

Walter Crane

A.G. Walker - 1914

I have absolutely no idea if this A.G. Walker is this A.G. Walker. The name is the same but the second one seems to be kinda a big deal and the illustrations we got from our A.G. Walker are... ok?;

His illustrations are in another book of stories from the Faerie Queene, this one by Mary Macleod.

You can read the whole thing online here.

I have no real idea why you would just take the narratives out of the Faerie Queene since, even in the good parts, at least 70% of what makes them interesting is the verse. The stories on their own are a bit eh. But I suppose you can read the introduction to that book by John W. Hales and find out for yourself.

Here's some more Walker;

A.G. Walker

The Cave of Despair by A.G. Walker

Here's Kents for comparison;
The Redcross Knight over ruled by Dispair but timely saved by Una - William Kent

And here is a zoom on Cranes interpretation;

Cranes Cave of Despair

Frank Cheyne Pape - 1916

A major illustrator, and Monster Brains has, again, got you with a post.

I couldn't find many exact comparisons, but here's Florimell and creepy old Proteus by both Pape and Agnes Miller Parker from 1953


Eleanor Fortescue Brickdales Golden Book of Famous Women - 1919

Another single illustration for a barely-remembers book.

Again, I know nothing about it. But you can read the whole thing here.

And someone has done a youtube video presentation of it;

Agnes Miller Parker - 1953

Another very accomplished illustrator. Her wikipedia page says she was chilling with Vorticists back in the day.

Una and Redcrosse

Here's Pape doing the same scene;

Cranes version

I absolutely love Parker, she is, by far my favourite of all the FQ illustrators, her compositions ore fucking boss. You can see some charming drawings of her here.

And that

No more Faerie Queene. You are free.

I will leave you with my favourite quotes about William Kent from the article linked to above;

"Unflattering descriptions range from 'very hot and very fat'14 

Braggadocio and Trompart in the bush - William kent

to 'obese and unpromising'15

constantly in need of a 'soft cushion to lay his soft Head and rest his tender Tail' during a life of 'high feeding & much inaction'."

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