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Arthur Rackham was an English artist who is often considered one of the most prominent artists active during the Golden Age of British book illustration. Rackham’s artwork is especially noteworthy for his watercolor combined with strong lines executed in ink and pen. Among his most memorable book illustrations are Peter pan in Kensington Garden, Rip Van Winkle, and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, as well as several mythological pictures.
Arthur Rackham was born in September 1867, in Lewisham, England. His first documented formal training was at age 18 as a part-time student at the Lambeth School of Art, and he also worked at the Westminster Fire Office as a clerk. At 25, he left this job to started working as a reporter and illustrator at the Westminster Budget.
Rackham’s first published book illustrations date from 1893, made for the book To the Other Side by Thomas Rhodes. However, his first major commission came next year for The Dolly Dialogues, a collection of literary sketches by Anthony Hope, who later wrote The Prisoner of Zenda. These were the kick start for what should become Rackham’s lifetime career: book illustrations.
By the turn of the century, Arthur Rackham had already developed a consistent reputation, especially regarding his prowess for ink and pen fantasy illustration, which richly embellished several gift books such as Gulliver’s Travels, Ingoldsby Legends and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Rackham would make several contributions to children’s periodicals like the Cassell’s Magazine and Little Folks.
In 1903, Rackham married his neighbor and fellow artist Edyth Starkie, an established Irish portrait painter and sculptress. They had one daughter. Although being highly acknowledged as a black-and-white illustrator for several years, it was the publication of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle that boosted Rackham’s to public attention, for they were printed in full-color plates. His reputation would be consolidated after the publication of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M.Barrie.
Although his reputation was made mainly through book publications, Rackham’s prowess was also noticed in the Art medium, as he participated in many exhibitions, he would even receive a gold medal in 1906 at the Milan International Exhibition and in 1912 at the Barcelona International Exhibition. His artworks were also included at an exhibition at the Louvre in 1912.
Arthur Rackham died in his home in 1939, of cancer.