Saturday, April 29, 2006


Paging through Victorian era magazines you will find thousands of dull, unimaginative illustrations that long ago ceased to have relevance to anyone. But every once in a while you find an illustration that leaps off the page, grabs you by the lapels and shakes you. The rare artist with "the spark" still stands out.

Most of his peers have been blissfully forgotten, but English illustrator William Hatherell (1855-1928) had "the spark" and deserves to be remembered for it.

This drawing overcomes every disadvantage that the world could throw in its way: working in black and white with charcoal and wash, reproduced in a publication with poor printing quality in a period when the prevailing style was largely fusty and stolid, Hatherell produced a picture of striking strength and vitality measured by the most modern standards.

His composition has all the verve and excitement of an illustration from America in the 1960s. His potent use of values, his vigorous strokes and the careful placement of figures result in a picture more dynamic and lively than much of what is produced today using the latest computer graphic technology. It just goes to show you that even if you are born in the wrong place and time, working with the wrong tools, sheer talent can do a lot to level the playing field.

I don't have access to the original of this drawing by Hatherell, but I am attaching below some details from another one of his drawings so you can see his technique.

Hatherell worked on the staff of a magazine called The Graphic starting in the early 1890s.

In less capable hands, this drawing would lapse into a nondescript puddle of gray. Only Hatherell's mastery of value maintains the integrity of the picture.

You won't find much of his work around these days, but this was a man who could draw.


Nicole said...

Wow. That's amazing, it looks like a photograph.

Bob Cosgrove said...

I knew nothing about this illustrator, and am grateful for the post. I originally thought to make no comment, having nothing particularly meaningful to add, but I do take this opportunity to say that I hope lack of comment to a post like this isn't discouraging to you; they also appreciate who only view in silence.

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Bob. That means a lot to me.

artlvr said...

David, this artwork leaves me creating a story to tell either what is happening, has just or is just going to happen. A young man going off to WWI and reaction by his mother.

I do love this and finding your website. Thank you so much for posting this and the one on Rembrandt's drawing of the sky, I believe.

Since I'm not a graphic designer or illustrator, I can appreciate and find much love here.

M Lyn