Wednesday, January 11, 2012

PAULINE BAYNES : Narnia and more

Iconic illustration of Mr. Tumnus and Lucy in Narnia, by Pauline Baynes
          A former student donated a bag of books that were mostly Tolkien and Terry Pratchett. As I was processing The Tolkien Reader, I noticed some very nice illustrations throughout it, and thought I recognized Pauline Baynes' work. Sure enough, it was.
          Baynes is best known as the original illustrator of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. If you've only seen the cheap paperbacks with only black & white illustrations, you should check out some of the nicer editions and see her full-color work as well. It's beautiful, detailed, and classic.

Beautiful Baynes illustration for a biscuit ad, wish I'd seen this closer to Christmas!

          The idea of her illustrating anything other than Narnia was new to me, so I decided to do just a little research and find out more about this charming artist from the good old days of children's illustrated literature.
           Pauline Baynes was born in Brighton in 1922, and died at the age of 86 in 2008, leaving some unfinished work on illustrations for Aesop's Fables. She was a busy creative lady up until the very end, and jolly good for her!

"Bilbo's Last Song" by Pauline Baynes

          Tolkien and Lewis were contemporaries and friends, but it was actually Tolkien who worked with Baynes first. Tolkien was preparing Farmer Giles of Ham for publication, but was unhappy with the first illustrator. Tolkien actually dumped him in favor of Baynes' more authentically Medieval and humorous illustrative style.
          C.S. Lewis saw Baynes' work for Tolkien, and enlisted her for his own Narnia books.

Aslan with Susan and Lucy, by Pauline Baynes

          Baynes was a prolific artist, though, and worked on many different projects throughout her entire life, such as The Arabian Nights, a bunch of fairy tales and fables, and even some of her own original stories.
          In 1968 she won the Kate Greenaway Medal for Uden's A Dictionary of Chivalry. I think maybe nobody (in the U.S.) gives a shit anymore about the Kate Greenaway Medal, which is too bad. It's still awarded every year for "outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people." I guess the Caldecott Medal overshadows it. Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott were both classic Victorian-era children's illustrators.
          I have to include one of Kate Greenaway's own illustrations, it's just so lovely and English and gay:

Girls in pinafores by Kate Greenaway

          Back to Pauline Baynes: Later in life she illustrated a bunch of religious picture books. When I first read that, I was like, "Ugh..." but then I saw she had also done illustrations for the Koran, so apparently her religious views were fairly open and scholarly. In fact, I later found this cool quote from The Guardian, UK:

It was somewhat to her chagrin that she developed a reputation over the years as an illustrator of mostly Christian works and, to redress the balance, one of her last creations (her "children" as she called them) was a series of designs for selections from the Qur'an, scheduled for publication in 2009.

          I couldn't find any record of that edition of the Qur'an actually getting published, so I'm not sure what happened with that. But I love that she was "chagrined" about her rep as a Christian illustrator, and felt it needed "redressing."

"St. Francis" by Pauline Baynes

          One of the best sites I found while looking into Baynes' life and work was Brian Sibley's blog, which includes something thrilling for a Lewis Carroll enthusiast like me. Pauline did a small line drawing for the "lost" chapter of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. The chapter involves a wasp with a wig reading a newspaper, and Sir John Tenniel said he couldn't illustrate such a thing. The nerve! Sibley was a close personal friend of Baynes near the end of her life, so his blog post about her is really interesting.

The "lost" Wonderland character as illustrated by Pauline Baynes
Sources:

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