I’m really loving book illustrations at the moment, so I think I’ll keep posting more of them. In particular, I’m fascinated by these sorts of intricate, high-contrast black and white ink drawings, because it’s more or less the opposite of what I do – I can’t seem to draw anything without adding layers and layers of shading, and I admire artists who can create the illusion of depth and dimension without the need for it. So anyway…
John Austen was an English illustrator inspired in his early days by the very stylish pen and ink work of Aubrey Beardsley. Though he soon left this style behind in favour of a more modern art deco approach, his illustrations for a 1922 edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are quite spectacular. Not surprisingly, Austen was a friend of Irish book illustrator Harry Clarke, whose incredible drawings for Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination I intend to scan and upload here soon.
These images, which I have cropped down from the original scans, came from Chris Mullen’s website The Visual Telling of Stories where he says of the book:
“John Austen 1886 - 1948, was a distinguished and inventive artist.
Nevertheless he illustrated this book where there are too many illustrations, there is an insecure balance with the weight and meaning of the text, and in design terms throughout, hopelessly overblown and inappropriate.
That being said, you will be entertained by them.”