Arthur Rackham Prints Collection

Arthur Rackham

Rackham was born in Lewisham, as one of 12 children. In 1884, at the age of 17, he was sent on an ocean voyage to Australia to improve his fragile health, accompanied by two aunts. At the age of 18, he worked as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and began studying part-time at the Lambeth School of Art

In 1892, he left his job and started working for the Westminster Budget as a reporter and illustrator. His first book illustrations were published in 1893 in To the Other Side by Thomas Rhodes, but his first serious commission was in 1894 for The Dolly Dialogues, the collected sketches of Anthony Hope, who later went on to write The Prisoner of Zenda. Book illustrating then became Rackhamís career for the rest of his life.

By the turn of the century Rackham was regularly contributing illustrations to childrenís periodicals such as Little Folks and Cassellís Magazine. In 1903, he married Edyth Starkie, with whom he had one daughter, Barbara, in 1908.

Although acknowledged as an accomplished book illustrator for some years, it was the publication of Washington Irvingís Rip Van Winkle by Heinemann in 1905 that particularly brought him into public attention, his reputation being confirmed the following year with J.M.Barrieís Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, published by Hodder & Stoughton. Rackham won a gold medal at the Milan International Exhibition in 1906 and another one at the Barcelona International Exposition in 1912. His works were included in numerous exhibitions, including one at the Louvre in Paris in 1914.

Arthur Rackham is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ëGolden Ageí of British book illustration which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War.

During that period, there was a strong market for high quality illustrated books which typically were given as Christmas gifts. Many of Rackhamís books were produced in a de luxe limited edition, often vellum bound and sometimes signed, as well as a larger, less ornately bound quarto ëtradeí edition. This was often followed by a more modestly presented octavo edition in subsequent years for particularly popular books.

The onset of the war in 1914 curtailed the market for such quality books, and the publicís taste for fantasy and fairies also declined in the 1920s. Arthur Rackhamís works have become very popular since his death, both in North America and Britain. His images have been widely used by the greeting card industry and many of his books are still in print or have been recently available in both paperback and hardback editions. His original drawings and paintings are keenly sought at the major international art auction houses

Arthur Rackham died in 1939 of cancer at his home.

Arthur Rackham Prints Collection
Arthur Rackham Prints Collection

Barry Joyce

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