Arthur Rackham: Painter of Faerie

Artist’s Profile

By Lezlie Kinyon, Ph.D.

Arthur_Rackham_001“I cannot remember the time when I hadn’t a pencil in my hand and from the very first my bent was toward the fantastic and the imaginative,” he recalled in 1907. (Ismann, 2003)

Rackham’s portfolio include the classic works of the golden age of fairytales, from roughly 1880 to 1925. He worked on original editions by JM Barrie, Maggie Browne, Washington Irvine, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, a lavish edition of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jonathan Swift, and the libretto for Wagner’s Ring Cycle … among many more.

Rackham’s dreamlike use of colors were created by pairing watercolor and india ink. He perfected his caricature style in ink as a journalistic illustrator, then applied that style to fairy tale illustrations. He inked in each painting over a rough pencil sketch, then used a neutral wet wash over the work. He colored in the details with a dry brush technique using multiple thin color layerings, and, often finished each plate by over-inking the illustration with a variety of pen and ink techniques. He was able to achieve his unique results through the use of the newly developed photographic reproduction technologies of the early 20th century. Rackham’s work is much sought after to this day with original plates commanding high prices at international auctions. Rackham left this world in 1933 and his ashes were scattered in the Rose Garden at Golders Green Crematorium, to be joined there two years later by Edyth.

There is a very nice biography of Rackham’s life and works here :

We herein present a small selection of Rackham’s faeries for your pleasure…




Ismann, G. (2003).  Arthur’s adventures in Wonderland. New Camden Journal. (retrieved February, 13, 2015)


  1. Lost chord Award poster designed by Thea Kinyon Boodhoo utilizing Rackham’s “Fairies on the Serpentine” from Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by JM Barrie


  1. English Fairy Tales, Steel, Flora Annie Webster, Rackham Arthur, (ill.) London : Macmillan. 2nd ed. 1922. (1927 reprint) copyright notice. Obtained from New York Public Library. The caption refers to a story in the volume, “Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar at home”


  1. “Come, now a roundel.” One of Arthur Rackham‘s illustrations to Shakespeare‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.









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