Thursday, August 28, 2008

golden age of illustration

I've mentioned before my obsession with all things 1920s, when Victorian daintiness had given way to art nouveau and then to art deco. The art and fashion going on from the 1880s through the 1930s was splendid.

Especially beautiful was the book illustration of the period, now referred to as the golden age of illustration.

Children's books, and the images they hold can have a lasting influence on young readers. Our imaginations are thrilled by images of dragons, trolls, and magical landscapes. I can see my own ideals of beauty stemming directly from the illustrations of princesses and heroes in the books of my childhood. And for me, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz will always be blond, the way she looked in 1910, drawn by John R. Neill.

Neill is a fine example of Golden Age illustration, and he is in good company. As book printing techniques advanced during that era, illustrators were able to take more liberties with color and style, and the public responded with enthusiasm. How could they not? Look at some of the classic works of the era:

Edmund Dulac

Kay Nielsen

John Bauer

Sarah S. Stillwell

Arthur Rackham

William Timlin

Of course, there are many other wonderful illustrators from that time period. I suggest you take a look here, and here, for some more web pages on the subject.


  1. One barely needs the words that accompany each of these illustrations, they are so full of character.

    What story does the Bauer illustration titled She Gave The Eagle Her Petticoat accompany?

  2. Wow, you're prompt. I'm still editing this entry!

  3. Regis, the picture you asked bout is from the story Bella's Glorious Adventure by Helena Nyblom. I have it in my lovely book Swedish Folk Tales.

  4. Hello

    The illustration are so beautiful. Where were you able to find so many?

  5. His name is not Edward Dulac. It's Edmund, born Edmond. Do you homework.

  6. Typo, troll. Looks like you make them too.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Yes! I too am obsessed with these,such beautiful whimsicl art. I also adore Harry Clarke and of course Aubrey Beardsley! I think every girl dreams of living in one of those paintings

  9. I just found your blog while searching for some Golden-Age illustration research to get me ready to work tonight. If you're into this sort of stuff, I'm an artist/illustrator and most of my work is very much inspired by the turn-of-the-century styled works in illustration and fine art. Take a look and feel free to give me any honest feedback. Even if it's bad, I'll appreciate the honesty. Thanks for sharing the works above.!/photo.php?fbid=10150104518424753&set=pu.139720954752&theater
    Take care,
    Shannon Stamey