Arthur Rackham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

TreeNovember always puts me in the mind for Arthur Rackham, one of my favorite illustrators. I especially love how he draws trees, which are like living, breathing creatures with personalities all their own.

With a limited palette and spare lines, his paintings are full of raw emotion, and he finds beauty in the most gnarled and thorny landscapes. His palette was mostly due to the limited color printing process at the time, though you can tell he’s right at home with it, and can channel a thousand subtleties in its limited range.

These illustrations are all from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. For a tale so entwined with nature and magical creatures, Rackham is the perfect fit. Notice how the characters and backgrounds are seamlessly blended together, so that the landscape becomes a character in itself. When not illustrating, Rackham did a lot of sketching landscapes outdoors, and it shows in his work. I encourage you to find books with his illustrations, to see all the amazing detail.

Also see my post from last year about Arthur Rackham’s amazing trees.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by Arthur Rackham

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by Arthur Rackham

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by Arthur Rackham

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by Arthur Rackham

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by Arthur Rackham

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6 Responses to “Arthur Rackham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream”

  1. Beautiful John …. makes me nostalgic for England in November and the smoky bonfires in the woods. Rackham was the master of texture.

    Hazel Mitchell

  2. Thanks for sharing this.
    I’ve only learned about Rackham since last year (partial art education), and I wasn’t aware about his hand in this version of Midsummer’s Night Dream. It is beautiful!

  3. nora lumiere says:

    These are stunning. They remind me so much of a wonderful book of illustrated Greek myths, done in a similar style with similar colors I had as a child. I can’t find this lovely book anywhere, do you/ anyone have any ideas?

  4. Emma Wallace says:

    I adore Rackham! I devoured fairy tales when I was little and my favorite book had his magical drawings in it.

  5. Simone Solon says:

    Thank you for reminding me about Arthur Rackham – it isn’t that his images are uplifting, although they are, like anything beautiful, but I always find something movingly yearning in them. They are so infused with a sense of something long desired but unobtainable – a sort of peripheral vision.

    Could the book of greek myths be an edition of The Heroes by Charles Kingsley? I remember having an edition with particularly lovely illustrations when I was a child?

  6. Arthur Rackham’s work is enchanting, I hadn’t seen it in a long time! Elaborate illustration just boggles my mind, I just adore it!