In a recent entry I wrote about the wonder and joy of the National Museum of American Illustration. While I do, indeed, love the American illustrators at the beginning of the 20th Century, my first love is for the British illustration art of the same period: Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielsen.
There was a renewal of interest in fairies and fairy tales at this time, and the artwork that this interest spawned is unparalleled. Not to mention that the Western world was completely intrigued and influenced by the Far East, which had its own wonderful impact on the illustration that was created at this time.
In England, galleries were showing artwork by the Robinson brothers, Rackham, Dulac, etc… to accompany the lavish and sumptuously produced limited edition gift books such as Dulac’s Arabian Nights, Rackham’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and one of the most popular and ardently sought after, Kay Nielsen’s East of the Sun West of the Moon. In Australia the popularity of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and Harold Gaze were on the rise. In America, the Oz books were still popular and much great artistry was put into illustrating Baum’s tales.
Now, it is a rare occasion that one can go to a museum and see artwork by all of these people in one place. Fortunately for lovers of illustration and children’s books, there exists a wonderful place to visit, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst MA, on the campus of Hampshire College (which happens to by my alma mater).
Now through October 27th, there is an amazing exhibit which features the artwork of the artists mentioned above. Flights into Fantasy: The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection of Children’s Illustration. The exhibit is not limited to British illustrators, however, nor strictly to fairies and fairy tale art, for this is also magnificent artwork by Ludwig Bemelmans and William Pene Du Bois, John R. Neill and Rose O’Neil. Margaret Tarrant and Hilda Cowham.
This exhibit was important for me because I learned about new artists that I had never known about, as well as books by illustrators with whom I am familiar but did not know the books.
Seeing the artwork in person is a completely different experience than seeing it in a book. No matter how good the reproduction of a particular piece is, there is still something lost, whether it be the rich colors or minute lines, or simply the difference in size between the plate and the original.
To learn more about the museum and the exhibit please visit the website: http://www.ericcarlemuseum.org/