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Arthur Rackham

Born on the 19th of September, 1867, Arthur Rackham was one of 12 children, and would go on to a life as one of the foremost illustrators of books in the early twentieth century.

Rackham first found work as a clerk in a fire office in Westminster, London, and at the same time began to study his first love - art and illustration - at the renowned Lambeth School of Art. The Lambeth school had already become established as a hotbed for young talent, and supplied a number of artists to the nearby Royal Doulton pottery factory as illustrators.

Rackham worked at the fire office for a number of years before joining The Westminster Budget - a local newspaper - as a reporter and, crucially, an illustrator, and while sources differ on what was his first illustrated book, by 1893 he had illustrated a volume by the name of The Dolly Dialogues, which was based around the sketches of an author and artist named Anthony Hope. Hope would later become famous as the author of the influential novel The Prisoner of Zenda.

At this point in his life Rackham's career took an abrupt change, and the rest of his working days were spent illustrating books, for which he is remembered today.

Arthur Rackham married in 1903 - to Edyth Starkie - and this union would produce one child, a daughter named Barbara in 1908. By this time his illustrating career had taken off, with a fully illustrated version of Rip van Winkle being published in 1905, followed a year after by an edition named Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens that featured 50 coloured plates by Rackham, and in 1907 a publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Lewis Carroll story for which he would achieve great and enduring fame as it went on to be a best seller.

Rackham had already won an award - a gold medal at the Milan International Exhibition - in 1906 for his illustrating work, and more would follow, while his work was to be exhibited on many occasions, including on one such at the legendary Louvre, the Paris museum.

In 1908 Rackham had illustrated an edition of the Williams Shakespeare work A Midsummer Night's dream, to great acclaim, and the next year produced a memorable volume of Undine, another legendary tome that was enhanced by Rackham's talent.

By now Arthur Rackham was much in demand as an illustrator, and worked on Der Ring des Nibelungen - a collection of German myths and legends plus an Alfred Pollard edition on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, as well as a book of English fairy tales by the revered authoress Flora Annie Steele.

With another Shakespeare edition - The Tempest - among many more, and a now sought after illustrated version of Tales and Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe among his later works, Rackham had easily become established as the leading figure in UK book illustration.

In addition to his illustrations Rackham also produced woodblock engravings -collected and sought after today - and his work is among the most revered in the illustrated book world today.

Arthur Rackhams work has had a profound influence on many later figures, especially in the world of film making where one director, the esteemed Guillermo del Toro, has cited Rackhams illustrations as a direct influence on designs for characters in his film Pan's Labyrinth, a fantasy production that would have lent itself ideally to Rackham's illustrations.

Arthur Rackham died on the 6th of September 1939, after a lengthy battle with cancer, leaving behind him a legacy that will keep his memory fresh in the annals of book illustration for evermore.