Derek Hudson has commented that Arthur Rackham's work possesses "a Shakespearean breadth and truth to nature;"1 certainly his work represents a colossal range of literary and aesthetic genres. Whatever his subject matter, Rackham provided in each of his pictures an idiosyncratic vision of the world seen through the lenses of his own particular imagination. Although this world is real, or at the very least realistic, it is peopled with diaphanous fairies, mischievous elves, beautiful maidens, laughing children, bearded wizards, weathered old crones, fantastic creatures, and anthropomorphic trees. Fred Gettings suggests that it was because of Rackham that when we see a humanized tree we may think of it as a "Rackham tree," adding that "if Rackham had not lived and drawn, we might never have noticed the tree at all"2 Gettings, however, misses Rackham's true genius: rather than simply drawing our attention to the tree, Rackham's illustrations reproduced what many people already saw there, exaggerating it to the point where it became myth. It is for this mythic genius and the delight that it continues to arouse in his audience that Arthur Rackham is remembered.
I would like to thank Frank Boles, Director of the Clarke Historical Library, and Gary Shapiro, Dean of the College of Humanitites and Social and Behavioral Sciences, for the course release they provided in support of my work on this catalog. I also thank Colin and Matthew Alton for their perpetual understanding.
-Anne Hiebert Alton
1 Hudson, Arthur Rackham, 154.
2 Gettings, Arthur Rackham, 79.