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The Harmonious Work of Warwick Goble (1862-1943)
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EMG News for July
The Harmonious Work of Warwick Goble (1862-1943)Artist Spotlight
by Giovanna Adams
Warwick Goble is not a well known name when one thinks of fantasy artists and illustrators. He was born in 1862 and lived around the same era of Arthur Rackham and Joseph Pennell. He was raised in London and graduated just five years ahead of Rackham at The City of London School and also attended the Westminster School of Art. As many illustrators of his time, he contributed illustrations to the Pall Mall Gazette and the Westminster Gazette (1).
His watercolors and use of very subtle color washes in his paintings were the perfect vehicle for the new illustrated books of the early 20th century, and this style would later become his trademark. He was exhibiting at the Royal Academy as early as 1893. However, it wasn't until 1896 at the age of 34 that he began dabbling at illustrating books. One of his earliest books was The Oracle of Baal in 1896 and then his third book was H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds in 1898 (2). It was clear with these first offerings of his illustrated works that his style was far from the polished and often exotic style that would come with his later works. He illustrated only three or four books over the next decade.
By 1909 publishers were immersed with public demand for color-plate books spurred by the wonderful efforts of Rackham and Dulac. At this time, Goble was becoming known for using his muted backgrounds to create a harmonious mixture of light and luxury. This style was ideal for children’s books of the era. And while Dulac and Rackham were in high demand during this “Golden Age” of illustration, it soon became evident Goble’s watercolor technique and color sense were magical and of the highest caliber. In a color plate for Cinderella (1913), Goble’s technique was fitting for the fantasy story; however, many of the time would only refer to his images as “competent” (3).
Goble produced about ten books in five years between 1909 and 1913. Starting with an edition of The Water Babies in 1909, followed closely by Green Willow and Other Japanese Fairy Tales in 1910, these were some of the most lavishly illustrated books of the day.
Early in Warwick Goble’s career he became fascinated by Japanese art and techniques, the same techniques that fascinated Edward Dulac (4). That influence first appeared in Goble’s illustrations for “Six Swans” in 1913. In this German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm (5), a young woman's six brothers have been turned into magnificent swans by their evil stepmother. In Goble’s illustrations for this wonderful tale he combined his well-versed watercolor techniques with the exotic techniques of the Japanese styles that he had been studying for many years.
By the latter half of 1913 Goble had become the designated artist for Asian story books, a position he held through 1916. Titles that fit neatly into his forte included Folk Tales of Bengal (1913), Indian Myth and Legend (1913), and Indian Tales of the Great Ones (1916). In 1912 he tackled Chaucer, which while not as exotic, was equally appealing to all (6). He continued working in this genre into the late 1920s. In 1925, he illustrated Treasure Island and Kidnapped for Macmillan, in the same series that contained so many wonderful titles from Eric Pape.
In 1943 Warwick Goble passed away (7). While he may not be a household name in fantasy illustration today and very little is known about him, Warwick Goble left behind truly memorable illustrations full of radiant images to capture the imagination.
To view more of Warwick Goble’s images, visit http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/illustrations/illustrators/goble.html
5) Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Grimm's Fairy Tales, "The Six Swans”
6) Peppin and Micklethwait, Book Illustrators of the Twentieth Century, 1984
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