Fairy Tale Illustrators


Many of my early encounters with classic fairy tales were visual. I remember reading and being read stories like ‘Bluebeard’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Snow Queen’ from an illustrated children’s anthology, and I can still recall some of the images from that anthology today. When I was about six years old I was given a hidden object picture book called Fairy Dreams by Carol McLean-Carr, which isn’t a fairy tale per se, but belongs to the same fantastical tradition. I remember being so entranced by its exquisite imagery that I looked through it again and again and again, despite already knowing where all the objects – books, wands, eggs, shells, crystal balls – were located.

Nowadays I tend to turn to the internet rather than physical books for visual inspiration, not because I prefer to browse online, but because digital databases are so comprehensive and easy to access. Over the past couple of years I’ve managed to accumulate a pretty large (albeit badly organised) digital collection of fairy tale illustrations on my computer. This collection grows a little each time I discover a new artist or google an existing favourite, and because the illustrators whose work I love the most were so prolific I’m constantly coming across images of theirs I’ve never seen before.

I’ve included the illustrations of four of these artists below – Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, John Bauer and Kay Nielsen. I realised while compiling this post that they all lived and worked in the nineteeth and twentieth centuries, which seemed like a funny coincidence at first, but makes complete sense, given that, individually and collectively, they’ve had an enormous influence on the reception and representation of fairy tales. All of these artists were popular during their own time and continue to be celebrated and loved today. So I guess it’s only fitting that I dedicate this post to them before going on to talk about more contemporary images (which I’ll hopefully do in another post soon).

Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)

arthur-rackham_the-old-woman-in-the-wood-suddenly-the-branches-twined-round-her-and-turned-into-two-arms-_little-brother-little-sister-and-other-tales-by-the-brothers-grimm-1917‘Suddenly the branches twined round her and turned into two arms.’
‘The Old Woman in the Wood’, Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm (1917)


arthur-rackham_-a-mad-tea-party_lewis-carrolls-alices-adventures-in-wonderland-1907‘A Mad Tea Party’, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)


arthur-rackham_-illustration-for-lewis-carrolls-alices-adventures-in-wonderland-1907Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)


arthur-rackham_the-frog-prince_the-fairy-tales-of-the-brothers-grimm-1909‘The Frog Prince’, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1909)


arthur-rackham_rapunzel_-the-fairy-tales-of-the-brothers-grimm-1909‘Rapunzel’, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1909)


arthur-rackham_the-little-peoples-presents_little-brother-little-sister-and-other-tales-by-the-brothers-grimm-1917‘The Little People’s Presents’: ‘What did she find there but real ripe strawberries.’
Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm (1917)


arthur-rackham_the-true-sweetheart_little-brother-little-sister-and-other-tales-by-the-brothers-grimm-1917‘The True Sweetheart’: ‘The third time, she wore the star-dress which sparkled at
every step.’ Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm (1917)


arthur-rackham_fitchers-bird_little-brother-little-sister-and-other-tales-by-the-brothers-grimm-1917‘Fitcher’s Bird’: ‘At last she met the bridegroom who was coming slowly back.’
Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm (1917)


arthur-rackham_frontispiece_little-brother-little-sister-and-other-tales-by-the-brothers-grimm-1917Frontispiece: ‘She took off her golden garter and put it round the roe-buck’s neck.’
Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm (1917)


Edmund Dulac (1882–1953)

edmund-dulac_illustration-for-perraults-fairy-tales-1912Perrault’s Fairy Tales (1912)


edmund-dulac_illustration-for-perraults-fairy-tales-1912_2Perrault’s Fairy Tales (1912)


edmund-dulac_the-snow-queen-flies-through-the-winters-night‘The Snow Queen Flies Through the Winter’s Night’, ‘The Snow Queen’,
Stories from Hans Anderson (1911)


edmund-dulac_the-merman-king_from-the-mermaid‘The Merman King’, ‘The Mermaid’, Stories from Hans Andersen (1911)


dulac_cloud-that-had-no-lining_from-my-day-with-the-fairies-1911‘Cloud That Had No Lining’, My Day With the Fairies (1911)


John Bauer (1882–1918)

john-bauer_annu-sitter-tuvstarr-kvar-och-ser-ner-i-vattnet-still-tuvstarr-sits-and-gazes-down-into-the-water_bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trolls‘Ännu sitter Tuvstarr kvar och ser ner i vattnet’
(‘Still, Tuvstarr sits and gazes down into the water’)
Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls)


john-bauer_prinsessan-och-trollen-the-princess-and-the-trolls_bortbytingarna-the-changeling-in-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trolls-1913‘Prinsessan och trollen’ (‘The Princess and the Trolls’): ‘One evening around
midsummer, they went with Bianca Maria deep into the forest.’
‘Bortbytingarna’ (‘The Changeling’), Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls) (1913)


john-bauer_from-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trollsBland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls)


john-bauer_from-leap-the-elk-and-the-little-princess-cottongrass-in-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trollsfrom ‘Leap the Elk and the Little Princess Cottongrass’,
Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls)


john-bauer_from-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trolls_2‘”Look at them,” troll mother said. “Look at my sons! You won’t find more beautiful
trolls on this side of the moon.”‘ 
Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls)


john_bauer_bergaporten-1918‘Bergaporten’ (‘Mountain Gate’) (1918)


john-bauer_little-bianca-maria_bortbytingarna-the-changeling-in-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trolls-1913‘Little Bianca Maria’, ‘Bortbytingarna’ (‘The Changeling’),
Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls) (1913)


john-bauer_from-bortbytingarna-the-changeling-in-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trolls-1913from ‘Bortbytingarna’ (‘The Changeling’),
Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls) (1913)


john-bauer_from-bland-tomtar-och-troll-among-gnomes-and-trolls_4Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls)


Kay Nielsen (1886-1957)

kay-nielsen_east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon‘“Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing
to fear,” said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way.’
East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North (1914)


kay-nielsen_moon_the-lassie-and-her-godmother_east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon‘She could not help setting the door a little ajar, just to peep in, when—Pop! out flew the Moon.’
The Lassie and Her GodmotherEast of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North (1914)


kay-nielsen_the-three-princesses-of-whiteland_east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon‘You’ll come to three Princesses, whom you will see standing in the earth
up to their necks, with only their heads out.’ 
The Three Princesses of Whiteland,
East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North (1914)


kay-nielsen_wood_east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon‘And then she lay on a little green patch in the midst of the gloomy thick wood.’
East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North (1914)


kay-nielsen_rosebud-or-sleeping-beauty_fairy-tales-of-the-brothers-grimm‘Rosebud, or Sleeping Beauty’, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm


kay-nielsen_troll_the-three-princesses-in-the-blue-mountain_east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon‘The Troll was quite willing, and before long he fell asleep and began snoring.’
‘The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain’,
East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North (1914)


Header image: John Bauer