And on

Saul Steinberg (June 15, 1914May 12, 1999)

Edward Bawden (1903 – 1989).

Eric Ravilious (22 July 1903 - 2 September 1942)

John Tenniel (28 February 1820 – 25 February 1914)

Arthur Rackham (19 September 1867 – 6 September 1939)

Aubrey Beardsley (21 August 1872 – 16 March 1898)



The Wanderer above the Sea by Caspar David Friedrich. I have included this image because it is emblematic of the Romantic movement in the visual Arts. Romanticism was the successor to the attitudes that prevailed in the Age of Enlightenment and provoked the modern image of the Artist that most of us are familiar with now. It is the point at which a distinction can be drawn between high and low art, Art and Illustration, perhaps?

Here is Walter Benjamin [15 July 1892—27 September 1940], enemy of the reproduced image. Walter Benjamin wrote extensively about the negative effects of mediation on the 'aura' of the original work of Art. See 'the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.'


The 'Broadside', a publication that directly precedes the newspaper as we know it today. Broadsides were posted in the streets and were used as a means of transmitting information about local/national events to the populace. Information would not always be conveyed in conventional prosaic form they would include poetry describing tragic acts and Illustrative imagery. Broadsides were around for about 300 years up to the beginning of the 19th century when industrialised printing methods enabled the quick and cheap production of newspapers.

This new phenomenon of cheap printmaking resulted in the emergence of ephemeral, low brow and morally questionable publications like the Penny Dreadful. These publications opened up a world of creative and authorial possibilities for anonymous illustrators. In publishing terms, they are the precursor of the contemporary comic and zine.

So describing the development and history of Illustration is inextricably bound to the development of media, the reproduction IS the Illustration.

Some examples of the [genius] work of Winsor McKay, an early 20th century cartoonist and comic book Illustrator. His most famous creation, Little Nemo.

Tijuana Bibles, low quality, trashy, erotic shlock. What would Mr Hogarth make of this?

The Beano, published by DC comics.


William Hogarth, (10 November, 1697 – 26 October, 1764).
Hogarth, the moralist, satirist, social commentator, printmaker and cartoonist, is credited as one of the pioneers of Western sequential art. Arguably one of the most famous series of paintings that became a hugely popular set of prints, The Rake's Progress, is one of the best examples of Hogarth's moralising social commentary.

The series of images tells the story of a young man who squanders the fortune that is left to him, contracts syphillis and eventually dies in Bedlam. This type of work by no means describes all of Hogarth's output he was also a reputed portrait painter and much of his work sat squarely within the conventions of painting, however he appears to be a product of his time, the Age of Enlightenment. Hogarth's visual commentary and cautionary image making mark an attitude prevalent amongst the educated classes in early 18th century Britain, France and Germany, that reason was all.
So Hogarth's relationship to the development of Illustration describes types of practice that have now become commonplace, social commentary and documentary, satire and cartooning. His hungry assimilation of everything that he saw around him, his ability to digest and synthesize visual and literal information and 'interpret' this into imagery describe a kind of Illustrative attitude. It is interesti
ng to note that both Hogarth and Blake began life as engravers.

A possible successor to Hogarth was George Cruikshank, (27 September, 1792 – 1 February, 1878), a caricaturist, social satirist and book Illustrator. Hogarth and the Age of Enlightenment's legacy was a tradition of dissent and moral fortitude. Cruikshank continued to lambast the morally dubious, frequenters of Gin Palaces and houses of ill repute. The Romantics, in stark contrast to their reasonable, forebears were ardent patrons of the aforementioned dens of iniquity.


William Blake, (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) a poet, painter and printmaker. All the p's. I'm sure that his is a familiar face. William Blake is one of the most influential image makers of all time. His visionary radicalism was probably best expressed in his bookworks, including the Songs of Innocence and Experience.

Aside from the obvious level of innovation and the sheer quality of writing what I find fascinating about these books is the integration of text and image. Thinking back to the Mayan codices specifically and the relationship between the bodies of image/text [ideograms/graphemes etc] I am curious to know what Blake was attempting to do to the text. For the Mayans and perhaps the Egyptians the link between the image/text and the pure image was obvious, but the development of the Roman alphabet and its evolution away from its visually representative ancestor means that it has become an abstracted form. In some ways Blake appears to be forcing its regression, taking it back to its own Garden of Paradise. It highlights the inherent tension but inevitable symbiosis between image and text, again this is an issue for Illustration I think. It is for these reasons that I think Blake's work is highly significant in the development of the subject.

A contemporary of Blake, Thomas Bewick, ornithologist and engraver.


Albrecht Durer [May 21, 1471 – April 6, 1528]. It is worth mentioning Herr Durer within this context. Durer, a shameless self promoter, artist, expert in geometry, printmaker and entrepeneur is connected with the more autonomous direction taken by artists/artisans so familiar to us today. One of the most famous series of works that he produced, the Apocalypse woodcuts, were produced with the intention of selling, distributing and promoting his artistic product.

It is worth making a general point about the relationship between Art practice and Illustration practice. It is fair to say that at the time that Durer was producing work the idea of being an Illustrator [noun] would have been unusual. Durer, as with many other image makers of that time, would have considered himself an artist. But it is worth looking briefly at the nature of the work that he produced, particularly the reproduced/mediated/printed imagery that enabled him to expand his remit so effectively. Thank you Herr Gutenberg. The mechanical press allowed Durer to reproduce on a scale that enabled him to make money and promote his wares. The medium was not yet the message but it did allow for the transmission of commercially viable content [the Apocalypse, very popular in the 15th century]. So in a way the motivation for the production of the work is not dissimilar to that of contemporary Illustration practice, Durer adopted the role of client and creative [although it is likely that he did not actually make a good proportion of the woodcuts himslf, opting to hire craftsmen to realise his images]. In truth what we call him is almost irrelevant, his work operates on a communicative level, he is taking content/stories/ideas which are not his own and clarifying them, visually. This is a form of Illustration I think.

400 A.D.

Just a brief interjection to mention that around 400 A.D the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire and adopted Christianity as the official state Religion. This had a substantial effect on the development of Illustrative work, the Church became one of the major patrons of the arts and the Illuminated manuscript was born.


The m
echanical printing press designed/invented by Johannes Gutenberg circa 1439. Undoubtedly a big event. Gutenberg was also responsible for the a system a moveable typography which led to the production of his major work, the Gutenberg Bible or the 42 line Bible.

Gutenberg's invention revolutionised the production of books in Europe and led to the destruction of this way of making bookworks.

An image from the Book of Kells.