Illustrations of the Macabre for Hallows Eve
Posted on October 28, 2016
I find myself seeing imaginary crows out of the corner of my eyes, trees reveal themselves skeleton-like without their leaves and I spot giant spiders and hanging corpses as I drive home in the early darkness. The weekend of Halloween has arrived–and with it all the pageantry of the macabre.
Illustrators have been creating the memorable imagery of nightmares for books for years, binding the stories to our imagination. Edgar Alan Poe had amazing imagery in his early editions, and the work of two illustrators come to mind. The work of the french artist, print maker, illustrator and sculptor Gustave Doré memorably illustrated the 1884 version of The Raven.
Later, the Irish illustrator Harry Clarke created a series of illustrations for Poe’s stories, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. He also worked in stained glass and was involved in the Irish arts & crafts movement. You can see his amazing sense of detail in both mediums.
In the mention of Poe we can’t leave out the most famous Gothic monsters, or their authors and illustrators, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In these books, the spaces the characters occupy are characters in their own right–playing a crucial role in the stories.
I recently stumbled across this obscure German magazine, Der Orchideengarten (The Garden of Orchids) which had very eccentric illustrations for it’s short run of 51 issues over the course of three years, from 1919 till 1921, that seem to fit perfectly with my mood this Halloween.
The magazine featured stories by famous foreign authors such as Dickens, Pushkin, Charles Nodier, Maupassant, Poe, Voltaire, Gautier, Washington Irving, Hawthorne, H. G. Wells, Victor Hugo, and Karel and Josef Capek. The illustrations are very unique, and this magazine–coming out years before Wierd Tales in America–is widely considered the first fantasy magazine.
Following Orchid in Germany in 1919, Weird Tales was published in 1923 and was the first English-language fantasy fiction magazine.
Weird Tales featured a lot of the most memorable writers in the genre including Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, as well as many others. The bright colors and graphics still seem to embody the colors and spirit of Halloween.
On this Halloween weekend I look forward to the festivities and pageantry, hoping to be surrounded by not only people dressed up as strange spirits, but accompanied by the images and dark visions from publications long ago.
So on this weekend of fun and mayhem, beware what might be waiting for you in the shadows and the darkness, and have a Happy Halloween!