Friday, May 8, 2009

Fit the First

Went on a little trip yesterday in spite of the rain. A brief break in the work flow allowed me a few hours to head all the way up to E 88th St. to visit the Church of the Holy Trinity. What for?

These stained-glass friezes were completed by Henry Holiday, a prominent London painter in his time and the illustrator for Lewis Carroll’s nonsense epic The Hunting of the Snark.

A short while back, I came across a worn, but well-cared-for copy of The Annotated Snark at a flea market. Martin Garber talks a bit about Holiday's career in the book's introduction and speaks highly in particular of his work with stained-glass which the artist himself apparently cited as some of his best work.

Unfortunately, as far as his work on Carroll’s Snark is concerned? Well, let’s just say Tenniel is a hard act to follow. Though Carroll spoke very highly of Holiday, most critics found his work to be inferior to Tenniel's illustrations in the Alice books.

His stained-glass work is beautifully detailed and thoroughly realistic.

But that is a hindrance when it comes to the Snark illustrations.

The characters are completely realistic with nothing but the occasional oversized head and accompanying goblin or beaver.

In fact, most of the surreal nature of the illustrations is nothing more than a byproduct of the surreal nature of the poem.

That being said, his work, no matter what the medium, is wonderfully detailed and rich with texture. His drapery is particularly exquisite.

Only one of Holiday’s sketches for Snark was rejected by Carroll.

Later, he explained why:

'One of the first of three I had to do was the disappearance of the Baker, and I not unnaturally invented a Boojum. Mr. Dodgson wrote that it was a delightful monster, but that it was inadmissible. All his descriptions of the Boojum were quite unimaginable, and he wanted the creature to remain so… I hope that some future Darwin, in a new Beagle, will find the beast, or its remains; if he does, I know he will confirm my drawing.'

1 comment:

goetzkluge said...

Interesting blog article. I think, Henry Holiday's contributions to Carroll's Snark have been underestimated quite a bit. He paralleled Carroll's textual allusions with his own pictorial allusions: