From my own perspective Arthur Rackham remains the greatest artist from The Golden Age of Illustration which lasted from the 1880s up until around WWII. Rackham first rose to prominence with his strangely compelling illustrated works that featured all of the various elements of the greatest myths, fables, and fairy tales. The artwork that he produced contained all of the whimsy, romance, adventure, and grotesquerie that was found in their accompanying narratives. Rackham's images became so ingrained in the minds of many children that his illustrations almost defined the essence of fantasy and legend for generations. Personally, I've always found his unique combination of innocent beauty with eeriness and often tragedy to be emotionally moving. I can't think of any other artist in the world of illustration who managed to so evocatively retell the stories of the past with such imagination and believability.
For me, this remains one of the greatest illustrations of all time and Rackham's most gorgeous work. Everything about it, from the lines of the twisting dress as it's pulled into the violent waves and the expression on Undine's face, are just so beautifully tragic and haunting. Even the subtle traces of color combined with Rackham's typical use of earth and sepia tones works just so perfectly. I'd love to see a statue of this image done one day.
Rackham's work on Wagner's epic Der Ring des Nibelungen is perhaps the height of his abilities as a skillful artist and best displays the way that he could convey narrative and such strong emotion with his illustrations. His painting of Freyja is extraordinary and I love all the little mythological details that he placed into it, such as the cat and the apple tree.
This particular painting is unique among Rackham's work because it doesn't feel like an illustration at all, but rather more like an Impressionist subject combined with a Pre-Raphaelite like style. The lighting, the subtlety of the colors, and the details here are just amazing.
Along with his mythological works, Rackham's illustrations for classic Victorian literature is incredible. His work on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is remarkable in that he created images that have since become as iconic, and some would argue even more so, as those of the original illustrator John Tenniel. These illustrations are to me so indicative of Rackham's unique talent at bringing together childlike whimsy with darker themes.
I'm not sure if Rackham painted using models or not, but I find it interesting how different Brünnhilde looks in this painting as opposed the previous one since she has gone from a blonde Nordic-looking woman to a red haired Irish-looking woman. But no mind, I still find this painting equally beautiful.
I have yet to see all of Rackham's illustrations for The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, but this one I've seen many times and it always makes me sad since Lancelot appears so cruel to the dragon, which is neither large nor imposing.
I'm not sure what it is exactly that draws me to this illustration from Undine. I like the natural setting and the feeling of the warm wind blowing right before a Summer storm and the figure is quite nicely drawn, but it has an odd quality to it that I find very charming.
Another Shakespeare-inspired image and one that I like very much. From the central figures of Oberon and Titania to the sense of the wind blowing through the field, Rackham has really captured the scene here and the idea of these two powerful Fairies.
Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare-inspired works of art. I love the use of the green and blue shades here and the image of the faeries and the unfortunate Bottom who's head is turned into that of a donkey.