2018 marks the 175th anniversary of the beloved Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol. The book has been illustrated countless times over the many years and for the last couple of those years I’ve brought you a look at different editions here.
I thought it fitting to once again circle around the fireplace, my dear Muddy Colors readers, and tell a ghost story of Christmas.
Well! Hope you’ve got something nice to drink because I’ve searched far and wide to bring you yet another look at the story through the eyes of different illustrators. I’ve included some favorites from my posts over the years as well as some new (new to me, anyhow!) versions.
As I’ve said before, though the story has been brought to life so many times, one thing in particular that emerges for the student of illustration is the unlimited and boundless ways to approach any given scene. From the apparition of Jacob Marley to the shattering vision of Scrooge’s own death, the illustrative solutions are endless.
It’s always fitting to begin at the beginning and see what the original audience would have seen.
I have to wonder if Leech ever wondered what future illustrators would do with the characters and moments he envisioned. Each subsequent edition of the story owes a debt to John Leech.
Greg Hildebrant. 1983.
Hildebrant needs no introduction around Muddy Colors, I’m sure so, I’m going to get out of the way and just let you see the powerful, commanding work.
Harold Furniss. 1910.
English writer and illustrator, Harold Furniss was the author of nearly 30 books (as well as amazingly named autobiography, The Confessions of a Caricaturist). It’s interesting to note, this collection of Dickens’ Christmas stories appears to be his last commissioned project, though Furniss would go on to write and illustrate his own work for another 15 years.
Drew Struzan. 1992.
Oh fine, so it’s a little bit of cheat to include this one but I don’t want to hear a one of you complaining. While it’s not an illustrated edition, the legendary Drew Struzen lends his powers to Kermit and the gang to help bring their own particular vision of the story to life.
Interesting side note, I got the chance to visit Mr. Struzan at his home studio a number of years back and this piece was there! It had just been on display at a show and there it was, wrapped in some plastic, leaned against the wall.
He noted that they changed some things around from his original. I think Kermit’s been enlarged a little, something like that. I’m not sure exactly because about a second later I was completely distracted by his original Luke Skywalker prop lightsaber.
It’s sobering to think of Rackham working through these illustrations during 1915, the second year of The Great War. I checked my copy of Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration by James Hamilton to see what, if anything, was noted about this time in his life.This was the first Dickens story Rackham had attempted, and despite its ghostliness, and the opportunities for the supernatural that story presents for its illustrator, Rackham did not exploit these to the full. … It’s as if, in choice of his subjects, he voluntarily passed by the opportunity to terrify his readers with too many ghosts and images of retribution, and chose instead to calm them with pictures of sliding on the ice in smoky London, dancing with Mrs. Fezziwig and children bouncing about on Christmas Eve. Perhaps caught by the national anxiety and tragedy of wartime, Rackham voluntarily softened his interpretation of Dickens’ story in a way he might not have done eight or ten years earlier – or indeed twenty years later with Poe’s Tales.
Quentin Blake. 1995.
Somehow, and I am sorry to say so, I had no idea that Quentin Blake had illustrated a version of A Christmas Carol. The inimitable illustrator of dozens upon dozens of books brings his wholly unique and unmatched abilities to bear upon the text with such freshness and life.
From the original illustrated edition in 1843 to more contemporary visualizations, one thought reaches across the years: we need the ghostly and redemptive tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. It entranced audiences 175 years ago and it haunts us still today.