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Modernism in Art and Design

October 28, 2010

During October and November 2009 we had to write an essay on Modernism in Art and Design. The subject I chose was:

Research the development of children’s book illustration in Britain 1795 – 1945, including work by at least FOUR illustrators which a) demonstrates the range of technologies and processes used, and which b) embodies changing ideas about the nature of childhood during the period.

Needless to say, I am not going to post the entire essay here but I will touch on what I wrote about.

I discussed the literature, the technology used to produce it and the concept of childhood. I found an excellent book called The Invention of Childhood by Hugh Cunningham which discusses the early development of the concept of childhood itself, it’s connections to wealth and class, the industrial revolution and the availability of books.

Illustration played an enormous part in the popularity of children’s books and I therefore spent a sizeable amount of the essay discussing the history of illustration and printing technology. From woodcuts to Litho, paying particular attention to the likes of William Blake (1757-1827), Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) and my favourite Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).

The essay finishes with a comparison between the golden age of children’s book illustration and what’s currently happening in the world of illustration today:

The period between 1795 and 1945 with its continuously changing printing technologies and altering attitudes towards childhood and children’s place in society not only brought us Children’s Book illustration as an art form but the Golden Age of Children’s Book Illustration itself (1890 – 1914). As history repeats itself in the first part of the twenty first century with the introduction of digital reproduction and computer based design and illustration techniques as well as resurgence of concern for child welfare and childhood experience we may well be entering a second ‘golden age’ in Children’s Book Illustration with author illustrators such as Lauren Child making extensive use of these new technologies. In fact Martin Salisbury writes that ‘the variety and quality of work available in today’s increasingly international market seems to merit just such a description.”

The quote is taken from Martin Salisbury’s book Illustrating Children’s Books. Creating Pictures for Publication – another good read.

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