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25 Reasons Why Arthur Rackham Was The Greatest Illustrator Of The 20th Century!

  • Mar 9, 2010
  • by
Arthur Rackham was one of the most acclaimed and influential illustrators of the 20th Century. He quickly rose to the top rank of artists in the Golden Age of Illustration and produced an extensive collection of images, which ranged from mythology to children's fairy tales. Rackham died in 1939, but his legacy is still felt today and he continues to inspire many artists.
Here are the top 25 reasons why he was such a genius... in other words, here are 25 illustrations that showcase some of his most beautiful, most frightening, and most memorable images.
1
Soon she was lost to sight in the Danube.
One of the most gorgeous and hauntingly melancholy images Rackham ever created. This is, for me, the standard against which all of his other works are compared. Beautiful!
2
At this the whole pack rose up into the air...
My favorite illustration from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland! This painting captures some of the darker themes in Lewis Carroll's book, but also much of the whimsy and absurd humor.
3
It seemed as if a sudden swarm of winged creatures brushed past her.
Such a superbly gloomy and provocative painting of Pandora, the woman from Greek myth who disobeyed the gods and released all the evils of mankind on the world.
4
Freya
Of all the images of Freya, the Norse Goddess of Fertility, this one is the most haunting and sensual I think. She just seems to represent nature and femininity perfectly.
5
The third time she wore the star-dress which sparkled with every step.
One of the most beautiful depictions of a woman that Rackham ever created. Her red hair is stunningly drawn and painted. I don't know what else to say, other than I love the details and the way the fabric looks.
6
Thor
This is the quintessential image of the Norse God of Thunder in my opinion. I absolutely love how Rackham was able to create images that had the essence of myth about them, but also a modern edge that you could sense without knowing what it was.
7
And now they never meet in grove or green, By fountain clear or spangled starlight sheen, But they do square.
This image has a subtle, dreamlike quality to it that I adore. One of the most memorable works of art inspired by Shakespeare.
8
Rackham was the perfect artist to create illustrations based on Shakespeare's more fantastical comedies. I love the way he has drawn and painted Bottom here.
9
Siegfried Awakens Brünnhilde
Though this image comes from Norse myth, I've always thought of it as a classical image from Sleeping Beauty. I've even heard that Disney used some of Rackham's illustrations to show the animators what he was striving for.
10
Titania lying asleep.
Rackham's style was greatly influenced by other Victorian artists and nowhere is that more evident than here, where his image of Titania sleeping seems to be the work of a Pre-Raphaelite artist.
11
Santa Claus
Not quite what you'd expect Santa to look like, but I prefer this to the fat, jolly version that we're all accustomed to.
12
The Magic Cup
This is a great example of the kind of illustration that Rackham excelled at, in which he would contrast the innocence of a beautiful girl with the cruel, ugliness of a goblin or hellish creature.
13
Brünnhilde
My absolute favorite image of a Valkyrie!
14
Bertalda
Though it wasn't intended to, this particular illustration reminds me of Spain. Something to do with the dark-haired beauty, the rooftops, and the colors.
15
May Colvin and the Parrot
I'm not sure why, but this painting reminds me of a lot of the Impressionists and the kinds of subjects that they'd paint, although it's done in a totally different style.
16
He soon found many of his former cronies, though all rather the worse for wear and tear of time.
A perfect image from Rip Van Winkle. Although the age is a little exaggerated, I can't help but picture this painting in my head whenever I think of Irving's American folk tale.
17
Marjorie and Margaret
Pure beauty. I love the use of colors on the flowers here and on the children's dresses.
18
How Sir Launcelot fought with a fiendly dragon.
Arthur's take on Lancelot of the Arthurian legend. A great scene that captures all the danger of mythical, medieval England.
19
At length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the prison.
A wonderfully horrific image, derived from Poe, which is dark and disturbing, yet fascinating.
20
Bye, baby bunting
Simply a beautiful image that evokes parental feelings of love and comfort.
21
The Pool of Tears
One of his "Alice" pieces. I love the juxtaposition of Alice with the giant animals.
22
That little melancholy air your papa was so fond of.
This image stands out from many of his others, because it doesn't take place in a mythical Europe of legends and fairy tales, but rather in a realistic Victorian setting.
23
A strange and compelling image that is very evocative of northern England's coastal shipping towns. I love the combination of the fantastic with the mundane here.
24
How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad
Perhaps Rackham's most simplistic work, but still beautiful and memorable.
25
Arthur Rackham
Of course, this list wouldn't be complete without Rackham himself.

What did you think of this list?

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March 10, 2010
The Valkyrie in particular was terrific.
March 11, 2010
Yeah, he did a ton of illustrations all based on Wagner's Ring Cycle and they really are among his best works.
March 11, 2010
No shortage of things to draw from for your lists then.
March 11, 2010
True, plus I didn't even have most of those to choose from. He did 70 some odd illustrations and I only had decent images of about ten of them and I only chose these four (Freya, Thor, Brunnhilde, and Siegfried Awakens Brunnhilde).
March 11, 2010
Sad.
 
March 09, 2010
This list just inspired to make one....nice one! 10, 21 and 13 really caught my eye.
March 09, 2010
Interesting choices. What's your list going to be?
 
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