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Arthur Rackham VPRWS (1867-1939)

Arthur Rackham, VPRWS (1867-1939)

First and foremost among illustrators of the Gift Book, Arthur Rackham had a particular affinity for the northern literary tradition, from Hans Christian Andersen to Richard Wagner, and developed a perfect visual response in his intensely observed characterisation and atmospheric depiction of setting. The images tend to be remembered as grotesque and spine tingling but, wide-ranging and always apt, their mood is as likely to be humorous or tender.

Arthur Rackham was born in Lewisham on 19 September 1867 and was educated at the City of London School. He visited Australia in 1884 and, on his return, enrolled in evening classes at Lambeth School of Art as he looked for work. Employed as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Insurance Office between 1885 and 1892, he resigned from the post to join the staff of the Pall Mall Budget, later transferring to the Westminster Budget.

Rackham began to illustrate books in 1894, and this activity offered a field in which he could expand his imaginative gifts. He assimilated a wide variety of influences, including the work of E J Sullivan and the Victorian fairy painters, and by the turn of the century had evolved his characteristic style.

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