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Detail from Salome (1892)
Pen and ink Illustration by
Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98)
Princetown University Library.
Definition & Characteristics
An illustration is a drawing, painting or printed work of art which explains, clarifies, illuminates, visually represents, or merely decorates a written text, which may be of a literary or commercial nature. Historically, book illustration and magazine/newspaper illustrations have been the predominant forms of this type of visual art, although illustrators have also used their graphic skills in the fields of poster art, advertisements, comic books, animation art, greeting cards, cartoon-strips. Most illustrative drawings were done in pen-and-ink, charcoal, or metalpoint, after which they were replicated using a variety of print processes including: woodcuts, engraving, etching, lithography, photography and halftone engraving, among others. Today, one might say there are five main types of illustrations: educational "information graphics" (eg. scientific textbooks); literary (eg. children's books); fantasy games and books; media (magazines, periodicals, newspapers); and commercial (advertising posters, point of sale, product packaging). Many of these illustrations are designed and created using computer graphics software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and CorelDRAW, as well as Wacom tablets, although traditional methods like watercolour, pastels, casein, egg tempera, wood engraving, linoleum cuts, and pen and ink are also employed. There is an ongoing debate as to whether illustration is best categorized as a fine art, an applied art - or even a decorative art. However, looking at many of the illustrative masterpieces created through the ages, one can have no doubt that this artform ranks comfortably alongside other fine arts like painting and sculpture.
Illustrations From Prehistory, Antiquity (30,000 BCE - 600 CE)
The origins of illustration - prior to the invention of "writing" - date back to the cave painting at Chauvet, Lascaux and Altamira, when paleolithic artists used charcoal and ochre to illustrate what they saw around them (c.30,000-10,000 BCE). These crude but vivid charcoal drawings survived because of their remote existence. Most of the others, created during Classical Antiquity and the Dark Ages (c.30,000 BCE - 800 CE) were less fortunate, and have since been destroyed. A notable exception was the series of Egyptian illustrations (eg. pictorializing legends of the after-life) discovered in the tombs of the Pharaohs (c.3000-1000 BCE). In the East (China, Japan), the earliest forms of illustration were created using woodcuts.
Book Illustrations From Insular Europe (Ireland, Britain c.600-1100)
One of the commonest types of early Christian art produced during the Middle Ages was the illustrated religious text. These illuminated manuscripts, created inside Irish, British and Continental monastery scriptoria, were hand-written in Latin on animal skins, then ornamented with Biblical art, including pictures of the Holy Family and Apostles. (See also: Making of Illuminated Manuscripts.) Among the most famous illustrated gospel texts from this period were the Cathach of St. Columba (early 7th century), Book of Durrow (c.670), Lindisfarne Gospels (c.700), the Echternach Gospels (c.700), the Lichfield Gospels (730), and the Book of Kells (c.800) - see, in particular, the exquisite Christ's Monogram Page (Chi/Rho). Influenced by texts from Eastern Christendom, notably the Byzantine and Coptic (North African) churches, early Irish and Anglo-Saxon illustrators incorporated "carpet pages" and other decorative motifs which represented the high-point of early Christian art.
Carolingian Book Illustrations (c.750-900)
Charlemagne I, King of the Franks from 768 and crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800, was an avid patron of religious manuscripts, although it is debatable whether he himself ever learned to read. These books, illustrated with images of Christian art created by scribes and artist-monks at the Carolingian court at Aachen, were sometimes written in gold or silver ink on purple-dyed leaves to emphasize Charlemagne's links with imperial antiquity. One of the reforms introduced by Charlemagne was a new, simpler, script. This is known as 'Caroline minuscule', and nearly all the manuscripts written during Charlemagne's reign are in this script. The earliest surviving manuscript to contain this script is the Godescalc Evangelistary completed in 783. Other masterpieces of Carolingian art include the Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht University Library), the Coronation Gospels (Vienna), the Godescalc Pericopes (781-3, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris), the Abbeville Gospels (Bibliotheque Municipale, Abbeville), Trier Gospels (Stadtbibliothek, Trier) and the Lorsch Gospels (Vatican Library, Rome), and the Egino Codex (796-99, Staatsbibliothek, Berlin).
Ottonian Book Illustrations (c.900-1050)
After Charlemagne's death it was over 100 years before Otto the Great emerged to continue the tradition of book painting and illustration. Actually, it was Otto's grandson, Otto III, who showed particular enthusiasm for this form of medieval painting. illuminated manuscripts. He employed no court artists, instead he ordered manuscripts from the great monasteries such as Trier. Illustrated masterpieces of Ottonian art include books such as, a fifth-century Livy, a copy of Boethius on Arithmetic, the great Bamberg Apocalypse, a Gospel Book rich with golden decoration (now in Uppsala University Library) and an illustrated commentary of Isaiah.
Ottonian book illustration takes us into Medieval manuscript illumination, which consists of three main movements: Romanesque, Gothic and the courtly International Gothic style.
Romanesque Book Illustrations: Britain and the Continent (1050-1200)
Following the close collaboration between monasteries in Ireland, Iona, and Northern England during the period (600-900) English book painting reached new heights in the 10th century, with Winchester and Canterbury being major manuscript centres. One of the great Romanesque illuminated manuscripts of this time is the Benedictional created for St Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester (c.963). This manuscript, made by a monk named Godeman, is marked by miniatures containing meticulously drawn figures and foliage richly decorated with gold. Aelfric, a pupil of St Aethelwold and later his biographer, translated and illustrated the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch), and the versions made at the beginning of the eleventh century are exceptionally rich and varied in their illustrations. By the time of the new Millennium, all English monasteries would have possessed quite large libraries, and a number of valuable illuminated Bibles and other gospel texts. In addition, special Psalters, and other Bible commentaries were produced and illustrated with paintings as gifts for Bishops, Archbishops and Popes.
On the Continent, Rome, Cluny, and Salzburg were major centres of Romanesque art. New religious orders and groups such as the Benedictines from Italy, and the Cluniacs, Cistercian and Carthusian orders from France, were directed to read, to make books, and to study. Although by 1200 literacy was still barely known among the general population, there were over 2000 monasteries in England or the Continent - all requiring books. This growing book industry supported an army of book illustrators and illuminators. Key works include: Vita Mathildis of Donizo (pre-1115, Vatican Library, Rome); the St Albans Psalter (1120-30, Hildescheim); the Psalter of Henry de Blois (1140-60, British Library, London); the Lambeth Bible (1150, Canterbury); the Gospel Book of Henry the Lion (1173, Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbuttel).
Gothic and International Gothic Illustration (c.1200-1450)
Early Gothic illuminated manuscripts were marked by greater naturalism. In France, the idiom is evident in a series of magnificent illuminated manuscripts made for the French royal court (1230-40) containing excerpts from the Bible accompanied by moral interpretations and illustrations (Bibles Moralisees). In England the style can be seen in the Amesbury Psalter (c. 1240; All Souls College, Oxford).
High Gothic book painting was greatly influenced by contemporary sculpture. In a 4-gospel manuscript at Louis IX's chapel of Sainte Chapelle (1241-48), one can see a style of drapery incorporating the large, angular folds of the Joseph Master (Bibliotheque Nationale). At the same time there was a growing focus on detail, which gave rise to instances of virtuoso penmanship. High Gothic illustrations also exhibited improved rendition of light and shade, like that associated with the celebrated Parisian illuminator known as Master Honore, who was active about 1288-1300. Other works include: the Mannesse Codex (1310-20, University of Heidelberg Library), Psalter of Bonne of Luxembourg (c.1345-49, Metropolitan Museum, New York).
International Gothic art was based around the Royal Courts of Europe, like that of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, which was a major centre of manuscript painting. Two important religious manuscripts produced were a missal (a book containing the office of the mass) for the Chancellor Jan of Streda (1360, Prague, National Museum Library, MS), and a huge Bible for Charles' son Wenceslas (1390s, Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek). See also the Belleville Breviary Manuscript (Paris National Library) and the Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux (1324-28) Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, by the illuminator Jean Pucelle (c.1290-1334).
Famous International Gothic illuminations include: Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416, Musee Conde Chantilly) by the Limbourg Brothers (Pol, Herman, Jean) (fl.1390-1416) whose illuminations are strongly reminiscent of contemporary Italian painting; the Brussels Hours (Belgian National Library, MS. 11060-1) and the Hours of the Marechal de Boucicaut (Jacque-mart-Andre Museum, Paris) by Jacquemart de Hesdin (c.1355-1414). See also illustrations by the Master of the Narbonne Parement, the Boucicaut Master, and Jean Fouquet (1420-81). Courtly French Painting revived during the reign of King Louis XI (1461-83), as exemplified by the illuminated religious manuscript Le Livre du coeur d'Amours Espris (1465, Austrian National Library, Vienna). See: History of Illuminated Manuscripts.
Illustrations From the German Renaissance (1430-1580)
The bringing together of the two processes that constitute modern printing - the use of metal dies to make reusable pieces of type, and the use of a press capable of repetitive impressions - is generally attributed to the German printer Johannes Gutenberg, about 1450. His invention of the first printing press gave a huge stimulus to printmakers during the German Renaissance, including the Nuremberg-born Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), who remained essentially a draughtsman and graphic artist. His illustrations included woodcuts for his Four Books on Human Proportions (1528, Nuremberg), and his Instructions on Measuring with Compass and Rule (1525, Nuremberg), as well as his Apocalypse series 1498, the two sets of The Passion, and the Life of the Virgin. Durer's contemporary Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538) demonstrated an unusual creativity in manuscript illumination and illustration, as did Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545), and Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543) who also produced a number of illustrations including The Selling of Indulgences (1522-23), a small woodcut for a Lutheran anti-Catholic pamphlet.
18th Century Illustrations
Eighteenth century illustration was significantly boosted by the growth of newspapers, whose news pages were perfect platforms for woodcut and engraved illustrations. The first newspapers (in Britain) actually appeared in the late 17th century, although it wasn't until around 1710 that the first UK daily appeared (The Times was founded in 1785, by John Walter), while the first French paper, Journal de Paris, appeared around 1771. The 18th century also witnessed the launch of several "serious" journals, including The Tatler (1709), and The Spectator (1711).
Eighteenth century illustrators included the French Rococo painters Francois Boucher (1703-70), and Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) who illustrated Contes by La Fontaine, Orlando Furioso by Ariosto, and Don Quixote by Cervantes. In England, the tradition was led by William Hogarth (1697-1764), best remembered for his satirical magazine illustrations on subjects like The Harlot's Progress (1731, destroyed by fire), The Rake's Progress (1735, original in Sloane Museum, London), and Marriage a la Mode (1743, original in National Gallery London). Other 18th century British illustrators include Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) - who painted nine illustrations for Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery (1786, unveiled 1789): examples include Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking (1784, the Kunsthaus Zurich), Titania Awakes, Surrounded by Attendant Fairies (1794, Detroit Institute of Arts) - and William Blake (1757-1827), whose reputation rests in large part on his set of 21 copperplate illustrations of scenes from the Old Testament Book of Job. In addition, in 1788, he illustrated the book Original Stories from Real Life by feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and, in 1826, Dante's Inferno, completing only a handful of watercolours and etchings before his death. A contemporary of Blake's, the famous wood-engraver Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), also made a notable contribution to the history of 18th century illustration with his celebrated books A General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and A History of British Birds (Vol I 1797, Vol II 1804), both of which he wrote and illustrated.
19th Century Illustrations
Nineteenth century industrial prosperity gave a further boost to the newspaper industry. The daily circulation of The Times, for instance, grew from 5,000 (1815) to 50,000 (1850). More important, from the viewpoint of illustration, it also led to the appearance of numerous periodicals aimed at a less learned readership: periodicals such as the popular weekly, the women's weekly, the religious magazine and the children's weekly - the hugely successful Illustrated London News was launched in 1842, one year after the British humorous magazine Punch, which was launched following the earlier success of Cruikshank's Comic Almanac (1827-1840). These periodicals and magazines employed a large number of high-quality illustrators.
Magazine and book illustration evolved rapidly during the 19th century in accordance with printing technology. At the beginning of the century steel or copperplate engraving (etching) was a major technique. The leading Victorian illustrator to employ this method was the political cartoonist and illustrator George Cruikshank (1792-1878), who provided such plates for Dickens' Oliver Twist (1837), Bentley's Miscellany (1837-1843), and The Ingoldsby Legends (1840-1847). Steel engraving was gradually replaced by wood-engraving, based on the engraved hardwood (usually boxwood) block which could then be locked directly into the printing-chase with the metal type. (Many woodblock engravings from 1850 on were printed using the Voltaic Process of Electrotyping.) Among the finest woodblook illustrations of the period are those by Gustav Dore for Douglas Jerrold's London: A Pilgrimage (1872), and John Tenniel's innovative illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (1871), and those by Linley Sambourne for Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies (1863). From about 1890, wood-engraving was superceded by photomechanical processes, by which artwork was transferred to printing plates by photographic means.
Colour illustration dates from the late 18th century (using the techniques of aquatint and mezzotint) but improved significantly during the 19th century, thanks to Alois Auer's "natural" printing process (Naturselbstdruck method) but most of all because of lithography, an advanced printmaking technique invented in 1798 by German Alois Senefelder (1771-1834). The process was kept secret until 1818, when Alois Senefelder published A Complete Course of Lithography. By the late 1830s lithographic printing (including tinted or coloured lithographs) was in common use. In England the process was enhanced by the lithographer Charles Joseph Hullmandel. Lithography remained one of the most popular methods for illustrating books up until the end of the 19th century, when it was displaced by colour photogravure, a technique of printing photo-engravings after the manner of the old mezzotints and stipple.
English 19th Century Illustrators
Important nineteenth century illustrators in England included: the Romantic visionary artist John Martin (1789-1854), most of whose apocalyptic landscape pictures were reproduced in the form of engravings and book illustrations, from which he derived his fortune; the landscape painter and etcher Samuel Palmer (1805-81), who produced a series of etchings illustrating Virgil's Eclogues; Edward Lear (1812-1888), famous for his landscape, literary and nonsense illustrations; the engraver Hablot Knight Browne (1815-82), aka PHIZ, renowned for his interpretative illustrations of works by Charles Dickens, notably Pickwick, David Copperfield, Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit, and Bleak House; the eminent wood-engravers George Dalziel (1815-1902) and Edward Dalziel (1817-1905), whose firm was probably the largest source of Victorian book illustrations in Britain: George was also frequently commissioned by the Illustrated London News; the celebrated caricaturist and illustrator John Leech (1817-64), who created over 3,000 drawings for Punch alone; the great Romantic figurative painter John Everett Millais (1829-96) whose many pen-and-ink drawings (The Race-Meeting, 1853, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) led him in 1857 to illustrate an edition of Tennyson's poems: during the 1860s he was a prolific illustrator, both for magazines, notably Once a Week, and for novels, especially those of Trollope; the English designer and medievalist William Morris (1834-96), champion of the Arts and Crafts movement, who in his final years produced (via his Kelmscott Press) an edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which is still seen as a masterpiece of book illustration and design; the Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), best remembered for his famous masterpiece The Lady of Shalott (1888) - an illustration of Alfred Tennyson's poem the Lady of Shalott from Camelot. The end of the century witnessed the brilliance of the highly original English Art Nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98), best-known for his erotic but sparse black-and-white illustrations. Art editor of The Yellow Book, Beardsley's most famous pen and ink drawings include his illustration of Malory's Morte d'Arthur and Oscar Wilde's Salome (Princeton University Library, New Jersey). Strongly influenced by woodcut and silhouette, his sinuous line and his fantastic exaggeration of natural forms were later incorporated into the pictorial language of the international Art Nouveau style. After leaving The Yellow Book, Beardsley joined the recently founded Savoy Magazine, which published some of his best designs. He also completed another set of illustrations for a privately printed edition of Aristophanes' Lysistrata.
French 19th Century Illustrators
In France, the greatest 19th century illustrators included: the leader of Romanticism Eugene Delacroix (1798-63), who executed a number of lithograph illustrations for Goethe's Faust (1828) and Shakespeare's Hamlet (1843); the brilliant French caricaturist and satirist Honore Daumier (1808-79) noted for his political caricature art published in magazines like La Caricature and La Charivari, along with a vast number of lithographic illustrations of social, political, and mytholgical themes; the illustrator, painter and sculptor Gustave Doré (1832-83), renowned for his illustrated editions of literary classics like Dante's Inferno (1861), and Don Quixote (1862), as well as his images of London poverty in the 1860s; the printmaker and poster artist Jules Cheret (1836-1932), who developed a cheaper type of colour lithography and, in the process, the lithographic advertising poster; the Swiss artist Theophile Steinlen (1859-1923), artist of the immortal poster Cabaret Du Chat Noir; the Paris-based Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) the archetypal Art Nouveau designer - best known for his Theatre poster of Sarah Bernhardt in Gismonda - who infused decorative art during the Belle Epoque with a new aesthetic; the great Post-Impressionist artist Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), who was noted for his lithographic poster art. In addition, Les Nabis, a group of Parisian artists including Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), Paul Serusier (1864-1927), Mauris Denis (1870-1943), Paul Ranson (1862-1909) and Henri Ibels (1867-1936), produced groundbreaking work in illustration, poster graphics and decorative art. Other French Art Nouveau poster artists included Georges de Feure, and Albert Guillaume (1873-1942).
American 19th Century Illustrations
The outbreak of the American Civil War led to an immediate public need for pictures to illustrate military maneuvers and battles, as well as portraits of opposing politicians and military leaders. In response, American publications like Leslie's Illustrated News, Harper's Weekly and the New York Illustrated News invested heavily in artist reporters, including Theodore R. Davis, Edward Forbes, Winslow Homer and Alfred Waud, some of whom went on to produce illustrations for The Century magazine in the 1880s. Other early American illustrators included Charles Reinhart, John White Alexander, A.B. Frost, and Edwin Austin Abbey. From now on, pictures would play an increasing role in publishing, alongside the written text.
Although America was fast becoming an industrial powerhouse, its commercial illustrators remained open to influence from British illustrators such as Arthur Boyd Houghton, Charles Keene, John Everett Millais, George John Pinwell, Frederick Sandys, and Fred Walker, as well as Continental illustrators like J.L.E. Meissonier and Gustave Dore of France, Daniel Vierge of Spain, and Adolf Menzel of Germany, all of whom were master draftsmen in pen and ink.
The 1880s and 1890s witnessed a major breakthrough in printing, which made it possible to replicate a pen and ink drawing exactly as drawn. This was followed by the invention of halftone engraving, a radically new method of translating tonal pictures resulting in a much more faithful reproduction of a painting; and a new chromolithographic printing process capable of printing colour even earlier than the halftone engraving process. The printing process itself was made faster and cheaper with the introduction of new high speed rotary printing presses. Because of all this, publishers were able to print more, better-looking pictures, which in turn attracted more readers. Also, the first comic-strips began to appear. By 1900, the list of important American illustrators included Robert Blum, William H. Bradley - known as the "American Beardsley" - who made his reputation from poster design, A. B. Frost, William Glackens, Jules Guerin, Arthur I. Keller, George Luks, Eric Pape, Edward Penfield - the pioneer of poster art in America, Howard Pyle, Ethel Reed, Frederic Remington, Reuterdahl, Everett Shinn, A. B. Wenzell, and Zogbaum. Some were French-trained, but nearly all were aware of major European developments in the art of illustration, notably the explosion of poster art championed by French poster artists Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Cheret and Alphonse Mucha, as well as the British "Beggerstaff Brothers," and Aubrey Beardsley.
History of 20th Century Illustration in Europe
Lacking the huge American home market for magazines, newspapers and comic books, developments in European illustration tended to occur in more specialist areas of graphic art, such as posters, children's books and other niches. It remained an important source of income, however, for a wide variety of European painters, graphic artists and designers.
European Book Illustration
Famous 20th century British illustrators of children's books include: Walter Crane (1845-1915), who became principal of the Royal College of Art (1898-99); Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), creator of the characters Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs Tiggy-Winckle and others; Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), noted for works like Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1900), Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods (1911), The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (1917); Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), the French-born British artist best known for his illustrations of fairy-tale and legendary subjects; and the later Raymond Briggs (b.1934) the 20th century cartoonist, graphic artist and author of The Snowman.
Other 20th century European book illustrators include: the Czech artist Frank Kupka (1871-1957), who illustrated Elisee Reclus's L'Homme et La Terre (1904-6), Leconte de Lisle's Les Brinnyes, Aristophanes's Lysistrata and Aeschylus's Prometheus (1905-9); the French graphic artist Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) who did several types of artistic design for fashion designers like Bianchini-Ferier and Paul Poiret, as well as illustrations for poems by Apollinaire, organized by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler; the Russian genius Marc Chagall (1887-1985), from whom the art collector Ambroise Vollard commissioned illustrations for Gogol's Dead Souls (published 1948), La Fontaine's Fables (1952) and the Bible (1956); the Cobra group gesturalist painters Asger Jorn (1914-73) and Karel Appel (1921-2006) both of whom experimented with book illustration; the British draftsman David Hockney (b.1937), noted among other things for his set of 16 etchings comprising a modern autobiographical version of Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, as well as his lithographic works and Illustrations for Grimm's Six Fairy Tales.
European Poster Art (1900-20)
After the decline of Art Nouveau, the Italian poster artist Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) was the first to appreciate the overriding need for instant visual impact and quickly established a reputation as the father of modern advertising. (See also Alfred Leete's 1914 poster of Lord Kitchener pointing at the viewer, with the caption "Your Country Needs You".) German poster design, meanwhile, was strongly influenced by Ludwig Hohlwein who eliminated all non-essential graphics. His contemporary, the abstractionist Lucian Bernhard, invented the German Plakatstil, a style of poster art characterized by clean lines, minimal naturalism, flat colours and precise structure, as exemplified by his Sachplakat Poster (1906) for Preister matches. Another talented German illustrator was Max Slevogt (1868-1932), noted for his Jugendstill caricatures and other fairy-tale imagery. Italian poster art - initially developed to promote the opera - was personnified by the German Art Nouveau artist, Adolfo Hohenstein (1854-1928) and his top pupil Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1868-1944). Metlicovitz's best pupil was Marcello Dudovich (1878-1962), who streamlined Art Nouveau (known in Italy as Stile Liberty) into a more modern style.
After Art Nouveau, and early 20th century functionalism, the next international style of poster art, was Art Deco (c.1925-40), an apt reflection of the new technological age. Poster artists of the Art Deco era included Fernand Leger (1881-1955), Amedee Ozenfant (1886-1966), Herbert Matter, and the French-Ukrainian Adolphe Mouron Cassandre (1901-68) - all noted for their photomontage tourist posters. Meanwhile, Switzerland was rapidly becoming an important centre of graphic art. Key figures in Swiss design included the earlier Art Nouveau masters Theophile Steinlen and Eugene Grasset (1845-1917), Emil Cardinaux (famous for his 1908 Matterhorn travel poster), as well as a younger group of Swiss designers - influenced by the imagery of Constructivism, De Stijl and the Bauhaus Design School. Led by Ernst Keller, the group went on to develop the important International Typographic Style after the Second World War. Since the 1960s, the invention of offset lithography, along with more sophisticated photographic and printing techniques, has stimulated the emergence of a widely based market for "art posters", notably the replication of works by famous European painters, as well as modernists like Jack Vettriano (b.1951). For more, see Poster Art History.
History of 20th Century Illustration in America
The new century would be dominated by American commercial illustration, not least because of its powerful publishing and printing industry. The introduction of four-colour letterpress printing technology made possible the faithful reproduction of a full color painting. Henceforth illustrators could have their drawings and paintings reproduced exactly as created. Soon, publications like Harper's Weekly, McClure's, Scribner's, and The Century began to attract America's best painters as freelance illustrators. New publications appeared, including the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Weekly, American Magazine, McCall's, Peterson's, Woman's Home Companion, Metropolitan, Outing, The Delineator, All-Story Magazine, Vogue and others, leading to a huge increase in opportunities for illustrative artists, although this did not prevent the use of labour-saving devices like cameras, Balopticans and pantographs. Young talented illustrators at this time included Stanley Arthurs, Harvey Dunn, Edward Hopper, Frank Schoonover and N.C. Wyeth, along with outstanding women-artists like Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith, Sarah S. Stillwell and Ellen Thompson.
World War I led to increased demand for posters and billboards, as well as pictures of the fighting. Eight leading illustrators, including W. J. Aylward, Walter Jack Duncan, Harvey Dunn, Wallace Morgan, Ernest Peixotto, and Harry Townsend, were sent to the Western Front to produce paintings and drawings (now in the Smithsonian Institute) to inform the public and also stimulate more support for the war effort. See also James Montgomery Flagg's famous 1917 army recruiting poster depicting Uncle Sam pointing directly at the viewer. (Famous American World War II propaganda posters include Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell.)
The 1920s postwar boom in America led to even greater demand for commercial images, advertising graphics, and literary pictures to accompany magazine serializations of novels by the likes of F.Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. Literary illustrators such as Walter Biggs, Charles Chambers, Dean Cornwell, James Montgomery Flagg, became celebrities in the process. Meanwhile Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), whose niche was the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, was fast becoming a household name in American art, with his nostalgic, sentimental pictures of a bygone era. In the 1920s new periodicals emerged, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Smart Set and College Humor, all of which recruited new artists to illustrate their contents.
In contrast, the 1930s was a bleak era of depression and recession. Many illustrators were laid off and publications closed (two exceptions being Fortune magazine, launched in 1930, and Esquire magazine, launched 1933), while photography began to replace hand-drawn imagery. The only bright spot was the increased demand for paintings and drawings to illustrate pulp novels, a genre which attracted newcomer illustrators like Walter Baumhofer, Emery Clarke, John Clymer, John Falter, Robert G. Harris, Tom Lovell, and Amos Sewell, as well as established illustrators like Robert Graef, John Newton Howitt, George Rozen, and Herbert Morton Stoops.
The 1940s offered new illustrative possibilities. During the war, these included advertising imagery for military products, and magazine illustrations aimed at home front wives and girlfriends of servicemen on active duty overseas. After the war, there was a surge in demand for advertising graphics, point of sale imagery, and magazine illustrations. The postwar baby boom also led to increased demand for illustrated books for children. Leading American illustrators of the time included John Gannam, John Falter, Robert Fawcett and Haddon Sundblom.
The 1950s proved to be a pivotal decade for American illustrators. It began well, with strong demand across the board, notably in advertising and marketing. Unfortunately, the advent of television led to a major decline in magazine advertising, and a consequent reduction in illustrated pages. More photography was employed to introduce greater realism in publishing, and this too led to a drop in demand for illustrative works. Brighter colours and bolder themes failed to arrest the decline, as many magazines went bankrupt. As it was, the 1960s witnessed a mini-resurgence of the medium, with a new demand for music album covers, music posters, and comic book art. (The music poster movement expanded into marketing and merchandizing with free album-posters, as well as promotional concert posters. Demand for this type of fine art echoed the earlier demand for vintage posters during the late 19th century.) In addition, the growing popularity of paperback novels (Penguin Books, Pocket Books, Bantam Books) created a fierce market for attractive front-cover art. Practitioners of this precise form of poster-like literary illustration included James Avati, James Bama, and Stanley Meltzoff. The late 1950s also saw the emergence of famous artists like Andy Warhol (1928-87), and Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97), who cut their teeth on commercial graphic design - including cartoon imagery and screen-printing techniques - before becoming major figures in the 1960s Pop art market. Warhol for instance studied painting and design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh (1945-49), before producing illustrations for shoe advertisements, album cover designs, and also literay illustrations for Truman Capote's writings. For more, see Andy Warhol's Pop Art of the sixties and seventies.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the US commercial art market fragmented into a large number of more specialized segments, including: animation and movies, video games, music, book illustration, fashion drawing, "Sword and Sorcery" paperback books, newspaper comic strips, political cartoons and others. It was the last decade in which illustration remained largely unaffected by the Computer Revolution.
By contrast, illustration in the 1990s was changed for ever by the universal adoption of computer systems and computerized methods of image-creation, editing, replication and communication. The art of illustration became the technique of image processing, as more and more commercial artists produced professional pictures without any traditional art training, or without any ability in drawing. More and more professional illustrators were replaced by novices proficient in graphics software programs like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and CorelDRAW, as well as Wacom tablets and Kai's Power Tools. At the same time, however, this type of digital art has been combined with more traditional methods. Fusion illustration, for instance, is a mixed form of fine art and commercial art involving illustration, graphic design, typography, and photography. Moreover, the widespread popularity of the science-fiction and fantasy genres (books, games, posters, products) has created an entirely new genre requiring both fine art and digital skills.
Types & Styles of Illustration
Here is a short list of selected styles of illustrative art, featuring some of the main types of magazine, book and post illustrations of the 20th century. Listed thematically, rather than chronologically, it is not intended to be exhaustive, and for reasons of space, certain categories (eg. comics and music imagery) have been left out altogether.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903)
The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904)
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905)
The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908)
Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1900)
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)
The Welsh Giant, The Allies Fairy Book (1916)
I've hardly closed my eyes all night, Hans Christian Andersen Fables (1912)
Brer Fox & Brer Coon - Jump Again! More Adventures of Brer Rabbit (1987)
Arts and Crafts
The Stomach Dance from Salome (1907)
Illustration from Byron's Don Juan (1926)
Advertisement for La Loie Fuller (1893)
Le Bain (1894)
Advertisememt for the Cabaret du Chat Noir (1896)
Advertisement for Waverly Cycles (1898)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Advertisement for Manoli Cigarettes (1910)
Exhibition poster for Moderne Galerie (1911)
Advertisement for Waschanstalt Zurich AG (1915)
Thomas Theodor Heine
Cover Illustration for Simplicissimus (1897)
The Ghost at the Ball, The Dance of Death (1918)
Die Lebenden dem Toten (1919)
Illustration for Robinson Crusoe (1922)
Nuremberg Trial, Topolski's Chronicle (1946)
The Fox & the Grapes (La Fontaine's Fabels) 1950
Cover Illustration for Vanity Fair (July 1930)
Advertisement for Au Bucheron Furniture Store (1927)
Memoirs of Jacques Casanova (1928)
Advertisement for Borsalino (1930)
Cover Illustration for Vanity Fair (July 1931)
Advertisement for Butterick Publishers (1926)
Cover Illustration for Popular Science (1929)
La Reproduction Interdite (1937)
Life Hangs on a String (1937)
Cover Illustration for Collier's Magazine (June 24, 1916)
Time to Retire (1924)
Advertisement for Interwoven Socks (1929)
After the Prom (1957)
Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1925)
Cover Illustration for Journal (July 1945)
Advertisement for Reed Paper Group (1953)
Malcolm T. Liepke
Brochure for Bender Fabrics (1984)
The Dying Mountain Troll, Simplicissimus Vol.II No.31 (1887)
Betriebsftvrung, Sammelalbum (1938)
Illustration for Confessions of a Short-Artist, Personlich (1997)
Poster for Visions (1967)
Poster for Big Brother & the Holding Co (1967)
Illustration for Aldridge's Interview with The Beatles and Sgt Pepper (1967)
Ganesh, Print for House of Blues' Ganesh Festival (1995)
Illustration for Punch (1960)
Illustration for the New York Times Op-Ed (1962)
Black Power/White Power (1967)
Amerika is Devouring its Children (1970) (after Goya)
Tales of Apartheid, The Progressive (1985)
Trained Sausage, Seville Catalog (1989)
Silence of the Lambs (1990)
Crush Hour, Cover Illustration for The New Yorker (Jan 31, 1994)
Illustration from Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction (1973)
Three Penny Opera, Poster for the New York Public Theater (1976)
Linda Rondstadt, Rolling Stone Magazine (1981)
Freud, The New York Times Book Review (1998)
Illustration from Toxology (1970)
Monica Lisa, Cover Illustration for The New Yorker (Feb 8, 1999)
Clintonmania, The New York Times Book Review (1999)
Canyon, The Atlantic Monthly (January 2000)
Election Debates Are Missing the Purpose.... George Magazine (2002)
Reinventing Physics, The New York Times Book Review (June 2005)
Mutant Monster Beach Party - Cover Illustration for Punk (1978)
Illustration for Rolling Stone (1980)
Album Cover for Cathy Chamberlain's Rag n Roll Review (1977)
Blind Date, The Blue Book (1983)
John Flaming, Steven Guarnaccia
Advertisement for the Dallas Society of Visual Communicatons (1990)
Rakasa, The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters (2005)
Poster for the 15th Anniversary of Friends of Good Music, Berlin (1998)
Temperature Building, The New York Times Magazine (2005)
Leonid Brezhnev, Cover Illustration for Stern Magazine (1972)
Liza Minelli (1972)
The Queen, Scarfeland (1989)
J. Edgar Hoover, Vanity Fair (1992)
Dick Cheney, Vanity Fair (1995).