Monday, December 13, 2010

Artist of the Month; Warwick Goble

Goble is one of those Victorian illustrators who worked almost exclusively in ink line and water colours, and seems to have had a long line of children's book publishers seeking his talents to re-issue old favourites. Mermaids, fairies and fantastical beasts appear through out his work, brought beautifully to life with the typical attention to detail and a shared iconography characteristic of that period.

Looking at Goble's images, you might be forgiven for thinking this was the work of Howard Pyle, Heath Robinson or Kai Nielsen, but only if your not used to their work, for although all these artists, and many others, like Kate Greenaway, Franklin Booth and Edmund Dulac all shared a certain classical perspective, there are subtle differences. Not just in style, which though similar is individual, but also in the fact that without a global communications medium to dictate trends, these artists were allowed by their audience to be truly creative in their fantastic imaginings.

Modern fantasy artists are subject to aesthetic pressures from cinema, television and the internet, and also from art schools which fall back on convention to process so many processed graduates as possible. You can see this best in contemporary conceptual art which leans heavily on predetermined trends in style and form.

Goble and his contemporaries did not have these particular aesthetic pressures, instead they'd had the classical art school education which rested on the supreme virtue of observing the human form, the play of light and the rules of good composition. At the same time, their choice of media was limited to what could be mass produced by the printing methods of the time. The consequence of these parameters is beautifully drawn and charmingly rendered illustrations the like of which are not seen today unless by virtue of a deliberately retrospective aesthetic, for example Michael Kaluta.


McTodd said...

I really enjoyed reading your observations on Warwick Goble's art, and you chose three especially beautiful images to illustrate your post. To me, Goble is best known for being the first artist to illustrate H G Wells' 'The War of the Worlds' when it was serialised in Pearson's Magazine in 1897, although those illustrations are far more sober than his fantasy images, especially as he was not working in colour. As an aside, I was very lucky to find a full set of Pearson's Magazine of 1897 in perfect condition in a charity shop some years ago and I bought them for around a tenth of what they would have cost from a book dealer.

Incidentally, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog!

moif said...

Thanks for the kind words. I was not aware that Goble had been the first to illustrate 'The War of the Worlds'. That detail had slipped me by. Its always nice to learn such things not least as that is my favourite science fiction novel!