Illustration - Winter 2007 - Issue 14

Those who spend the end of the year totting up their achievements over the past 12 months and planning anxiously for the next should be pleased to see that in this issue we explore themes of old and new and how the two can collide to great effect in art generally and, specifically, in illustration. We consider first the work of Aubrey Beardsley, whose brief but prolific career in the 1890s produced so much more than a typical enfant terrible aiming to shock (page 8). We learn that he was not just the greatest of the British Decadents, but also heralded the rise of Modernism in his use of expanses of black and white space and strong lines.
Next we consider the illustrations that have been produced over the past 400 years to complement, elucidate and decorate Dante’s great poem, the Divine Comedy. We see how artists have interpreted its eternal themes of man’s relationship with his gods, religions and other men and find out how one modern artist approached the challenge of producing his own version of this epic (page 14). Old meets new with a bang rather than a whimper when we discover the ways in which modern technology is making it possible for everyone to access the world’s greatest illuminated manuscripts in ways that our ancestors could never have imagined (pages 22 and 36). Stunning illuminations from the greatest masters are now available at the touch of a button, if you know where to look, while beautiful facsimiles enable us peasants to look at work previously available only to nobles or prelates. And, if you suffer from turn-of-the-year angst, remember that this is not the only thing that has improved. Fashion illustration is also on the rise again, after years of dominance by photography (page 32). Or, if you prefer to leave soul-searching to others and watch winter pass from an armchair, you could just sit by the fire and revel in Angela Barrett’s gorgeous new depictions of Anna Karenina (page 28). Happy Christmas.

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