The Fantastical Imagination of a Master Illustrator

From gnarled trees seeming to live and breathe to fairy worlds dripping in magic, few artist books conjured such imagination out of pen and paint as prolific illustrator Arthur Rackham. His works transport viewers out of the mundane and into vivid landscapes of myths, fables, and lyrical fantasies. Over a career spanning decades, Rackham brought to life everything from ancient folktales to whimsical animals with an unmatched eye for color, humor, and dream-like wonder.

Born in London in 1867, Arthur Rackham seemed destined for business according to his father, a British Admiralty Marshal. However, Rackham was compelled toward art, spending holidays roaming England’s countryside with his paints rather than pursuing commerce.

Rackham attended the Lambeth School of Art in the evenings after his obligatory day job. He steadily developed his artistic talents until finally achieving enough excellence to become a full-time illustrator.

Over the years, Rackham’s mythic, fanciful illustrations have gained increasing acclaim, until today he stands as the preeminent collected illustrator for his era. His unmatched imagination, draftsmanship, and command of color set his work apart. Rackham brings profound insight into myths, fairytales, and folklore, lending his artwork a timeless, transcendent quality.

From Wagner’s operatic Ring cycle to Mother Goose nursery rhymes, Rackham’s paintings brim with exquisite renderings of the mystical and rhythmic, as well as delightful humor and wholesome joy. Even his natural landscapes and animal scenes pulse with vibrant life and vivid hues.

Among various honors, Rackham has won gold medals for illustration in Milan, Venice, and Barcelona. His work hangs permanently in galleries from London and Paris to Vienna and Melbourne. Recently he exhibited a portrait of his daughter and also designed sets for an opera performance of Hansel and Gretel.

Even as a retrospective volume is compiled on his extensive career, this life-long artist shows no sign of laying down his brush, anticipating many more blank pages left to fill with his fantastic visual tales.

Arthur Rackham left behind an astonishing legacy through over 150 illustrated books and thousands of expressive images. For generations since then and into the future, his works continue introducing both children and adults into an enchanting spectacle of the world’s stories, myths, and possibilities. His unique style and sheer output solidify Rackham as one of history’s great imaginative artists.