I've been thinking about knights lately. A lot. Almost to the point of obsession. Which is odd, especially since I am working on the Heart of Darkness illustrations. Still, I have always had an enormous fondness for pictures and stories of knights so this Friday I'd like to share some images of them.
This first piece is my favorite image of a knight ever. I have a very complex emotional response to this image, all gnarled up with nostalgia and a childlike sense of wonder that still grips me. This image means a great deal to me. It really may be the best painting ever. It's called "The Knight of the Black Rose" by the artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones.
Here are two from artist Aubrey Beardsley's legendary illustrations for Le Morte d'Arthur.
A truly wonderful cover by Frank Schoonover for King Arthur. This takes me back.
Two early comic art pieces from one of my favorite artists P. Craig Rusell.
An elegant and slightly surreal vision of "St. George and the Dragon" by French Symbolist Gustave Moreau.
Another old favorite of mine, one of Murphy Anderson's illustrations for DC Comics' Atomic Knights series.
Generally, Frank Frazetta's art is sometimes a little too bulbous and bulging for my tastes, but I am very fond of some of his paintings. This one, titled "The Outlaw of Torn," is one of them.
As I've mentioned many many times, Willy Pogany is one of my favorite artists ever. In fact, my earliest memories of art are of looking at his beautiful black and white line drawings for Padraic Colum's Greek and Norse myths. It is truly depressing to me how forgotten his work is, and I believe the only thing in print is a nicely done but still sadly slender and cheaply produced Dover Books collection of his art. In the early 1900s, Pogany contributed these absolutely glorious illustrations to exquisitely beautiful print retellings of Wagner's Tannhauser, Lohengrin and Parsifal. For a short time, the publisher Calla Editions was printing relatively inexpensive but beautifully crafted facsimile editions of some of these early 20th century illustrated stories and I fervently hoped they would eventually come around to at the very least doing Parsifal and Lohengrin. Sadly that never happened and I am not even sure if Calla is a functioning publisher any longer. Original editions of these books are available, but even copies in poor condition cost around $125 so I may never really get to see these illustrations anywhere other than online. Ah, well, enough editorializing, here is just a tiny sample of Pogany's gorgeous work for Parsifal...
Another change of pace, Wassily Kandinsky's "St. George and the Dragon."
The classic "Knight, Death and the Devil" by Albrecht Durer.
A cover from Simone Bianchi's Shining Knight from DC Comics.
An achingly beautiful painting by Alan Lee titled "The Proud One of the Clearing."
And finally, a closing with two more of my favorite artists. I first discovered the art of Kay Nielsen as an undergrad and was stunned when I saw it. I had never seen work quite like his, and it amazed me to discover he illustrated books predominantly aimed at children and was, like Pogany, more or less forgotten about. Fortunately, there are more books in print and available featuring Nielsen's art, but still not the massive monograph I would love to see. Here are some of my favorite Nielsen illustrations from East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon.
And one not from that collection titled, again, "St. George and the Dragon."
I'll close with these pieces, by N.C. Wyeth from The Boy's King Arthur. These pieces move me to tears and if you know me at all or have been paying attention to this blog for any time, you'll know why. The first one is titled "The sword Excalibur rises from the lake."
This is "I am Sir Launcelot du Lake."
This one is "It hung upon a thorn, and there he blew three deadly notes."
And finally, the haunting and deeply moving "Traitor, now is thy death day come."