ILLUSTRATION MAGAZINE
ILLUSTRATION MAGAZINE























Spring 2018

For many people, an illustration is their first glimpse of the past – whether this is an historical event, a hero or a society lady’s drawing room. Even today, young people are often introduced to the fashions and styles of the past in books. Adult fiction is less often illustrated, but those who care can still find many illustrated editions of classics, if not of new novels. However, the way in which illustrations tell us about the past and the texts they illuminate, is complex. Some illustrators depict current society or events, often as reportage or in cartoons. These in time become historical documents. Others illustrate texts that were either written in earlier times, or which tell of events that happened many years before. These may tell us a variety of things about both the historical past and about the illustrator’s present.
Hugh Thomson, for example, became known for his meticulous research and the detail he put into his illustrations for Jane Austen’s novels, particularly Pride & Prejudice, although he created the illustrations almost 100 years after the period in which the novels were set. However, Charles Keeping, who was well-known for illustrating stories set in the distant past, focused more on emotions and events than on historical detail and his drawings also tell us much about artists and publishers in the 1950s and 1960s. Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter was a reaction against the sentimental tales on the market for children in the 1840s, while John Tenniel’s famous illustrations for Alice in Wonderland reflected his own background as a 19th-century political cartoonist. Illustrators today, of course, make history even as they depict it – it is inescapable. Edoardo Fontana, for example, tells us about his passion for past wood-engravers, while he uses their influence to create new work, and the current revival of the great designers of the mid-20th century such as Enid Marx, is having a clear impact on many illustrators and artists today. The circle goes on continually, but the best will always help us to understand the past, while creating work that will last into the future.
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