See Beautiful Fairy Tale Illustrations In A Free Pop-Up Exhibition

By Londonist Last edited 34 months ago
See Beautiful Fairy Tale Illustrations In A Free Pop-Up Exhibition
Illustration by Grahame Baker-Smith, from The Selfish Giant and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. Baker-Smith says: "I had read Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde and was hugely inspired and moved by the poignancy and poetry of Wilde’s soul. Ellmann’s book is, in itself, a remarkable piece of literature, and really brought the kindness and humanity of its subject to vivid life. The illustrations themselves were a joy to do. In my imagination I created them as if Wilde were alive and would be looking at them, correcting proofs and commenting, so I tried to do something that Wilde would (hopefully) approve of. I also thought it might be fun to put Wilde himself into a couple of the illustrations. For me the story of The Happy Prince is Wilde’s portrait of his own character."
Illustration by Grahame Baker-Smith, from The Selfish Giant and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. Baker-Smith says: "I had read Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde and was hugely inspired and moved by the poignancy and poetry of Wilde’s soul. Ellmann’s book is, in itself, a remarkable piece of literature, and really brought the kindness and humanity of its subject to vivid life. The illustrations themselves were a joy to do. In my imagination I created them as if Wilde were alive and would be looking at them, correcting proofs and commenting, so I tried to do something that Wilde would (hopefully) approve of. I also thought it might be fun to put Wilde himself into a couple of the illustrations. For me the story of The Happy Prince is Wilde’s portrait of his own character."
Illustration by Igor Karash, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter. Karash says: "The mystical wintery environment of The Company of Wolves set the tone and mood for my series of illustrations. In each image I created an environment that simultaneously shows past events, the present moment, and subtly hints at what is to come. My intention was to actively use the visual language associated with fairy tales to mimic the way Carter based her stories on existing texts, but shifted the style and added rigidness, severe emotion and eroticism. Thus, the illustrations and binding have a deceptive nature; at first glance they look more like children's illustrations, but become darker and more grotesque upon closer examination."
Illustration by Igor Karash, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter. Karash says: "The mystical wintery environment of The Company of Wolves set the tone and mood for my series of illustrations. In each image I created an environment that simultaneously shows past events, the present moment, and subtly hints at what is to come. My intention was to actively use the visual language associated with fairy tales to mimic the way Carter based her stories on existing texts, but shifted the style and added rigidness, severe emotion and eroticism. Thus, the illustrations and binding have a deceptive nature; at first glance they look more like children's illustrations, but become darker and more grotesque upon closer examination."
Illustration by Victo Ngai, from Chinese Fairy Tales & Fantasies. Ngai says: "I have always been drawn to mythologies and fantasies; stories that explore worlds that extend beyond the realities we perceive and allow the impossible to be possible. I love illustration for the same reason; there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to entice viewers into a world built with my own logic and convince them of its authenticity."
Illustration by Victo Ngai, from Chinese Fairy Tales & Fantasies. Ngai says: "I have always been drawn to mythologies and fantasies; stories that explore worlds that extend beyond the realities we perceive and allow the impossible to be possible. I love illustration for the same reason; there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to entice viewers into a world built with my own logic and convince them of its authenticity."
Illustration by Caroline Smith, from Folktales of the Native American by Dee Brown. Smith says: "Folktales of the Native American represents our collective past; these stories speak to our emotional and spiritual relationship with animals, nature and the environment, and they also have symbolic meanings that still resonate today. I have a deep fascination with symbolism and its connection with artists from early cultures. Notions of ceremonial magic, ritual, dance and dream are always present in my work."
Illustration by Caroline Smith, from Folktales of the Native American by Dee Brown. Smith says: "Folktales of the Native American represents our collective past; these stories speak to our emotional and spiritual relationship with animals, nature and the environment, and they also have symbolic meanings that still resonate today. I have a deep fascination with symbolism and its connection with artists from early cultures. Notions of ceremonial magic, ritual, dance and dream are always present in my work."
Illustration by Madalina Andronic, from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. Andronic says: "I grew up in Eastern Europe (Romania), so the fairy-tale universe I know is completely different to the one I came to discover in The Princess and the Goblin. This project offered me the challenge of illustrating a magical tale with a strange, dark atmosphere and mysterious characters, while keeping my voice and turning the words of a classic British children’s book into seven vivid, decorative compositions. I was inspired by both my Slavic art background and the British Arts and Crafts Movement – a revival of traditional imagery and storytelling translated into modern graphic language."
Illustration by Madalina Andronic, from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. Andronic says: "I grew up in Eastern Europe (Romania), so the fairy-tale universe I know is completely different to the one I came to discover in The Princess and the Goblin. This project offered me the challenge of illustrating a magical tale with a strange, dark atmosphere and mysterious characters, while keeping my voice and turning the words of a classic British children’s book into seven vivid, decorative compositions. I was inspired by both my Slavic art background and the British Arts and Crafts Movement – a revival of traditional imagery and storytelling translated into modern graphic language."

Londonist is proud to be media partner to the British Academy’s Literature Week.

Aren't these illustrations gorgeous? There's more where they come from, and you can see them up close and personal in a free pop-up exhibition at the British Academy's HQ on Carlton House Terrace during Literature Week in May. Work by five illustrators, from books of fairy and folk tales published by The Folio Society, will be on display before and after all Literature Week events. Here's a bit more about each artist, and you can read what they have to say about their work underneath each image.

  • Grahame Baker-Smith is a self-taught illustrator. He began to experiment with digital techniques, including Photoshop, several years ago, and now combines painting and drawing in traditional media with photographed and scanned textures, enjoying the control that digital methods give an artist over every aspect of the image. These illustrations are taken from The Selfish Giant and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde.
  • Victo Ngai is an illustrator from Hong Kong, now based in New York. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and in 2014 was named one of Forbes’s 30 Under 30 in the field of art and style and was honoured with a Gold Medal from the Greater China Illustration Awards. In 2013 she won two Gold Medals in the prestigious Society of Illustrators Annual Competition. Her illustrations are taken from Chinese Fairy Tales & Fantasies.
  • Igor Karash is an illustrator and designer based in St Louis, Missouri. He grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he studied architecture, and later graduated from the Kharkov State Academy of Design and Arts in Ukraine with a Masters in Graphic Arts and Illustration. His work has been recognised by numerous prestigious book illustration competitions, including the AOI Awards in the United Kingdom and the American Illustration 32 in the United States. The illustrations in this exhibition are from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter.
  • Caroline Smith studied at Reigate College of Art and moved into illustration during the 1960s. She has created murals for the Pyramids Hotel in Cairo, 12 paintings for the Shangri La Hotel in Hong Kong and 18 paintings for the Mandarin Hotel in Singapore. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the V&A Illustrations Awards for her work on The Folio Society edition of Folktales of the Native American by Dee Brown, from which her exhibits are taken.
  • Madalina Andronic is a Romanian artist. She gained a BA in Graphic Design at the University of Fine Arts, Bucharest, and an MA in Illustration at the University of the Arts London, Camberwell College of Arts. Andronic is fascinated by traditional fairy tales and Slavic folklore, always drawn to illustrating these stories in intricate detail and bright colours. These illustrations are from The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

This pop-up exhibition is just one of a wide range of events exploring fairy tales and folk tales as part of the British Academy’s Literature Week. In this week celebrating the fantastical and magical, you can hear authors and experts speak about the enduring appeal of fairy tales, learn about rare editions of fairy tales and folk tales at the British Library or listen to live story-telling and get creative with book art at the British Academy’s ‘other worlds... after dark’ Late Night.

The British Academy’s Literature Week runs 11-17 May. All events are free. To explore the programme and register visit the British Academy’s website. You can also follow #LiteratureWeek on Twitter for updates from @britac_news. All books are available at www.foliosociety.com.

Last Updated 22 April 2015