In 1816 Jane Austen wrote to her nephew James Edward Austen describing her writing as “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour.” Two inches of ivory would be a reference to the art of miniature portraiture painted on ivory that was so popular in her lifetime. Interestingly, Austen described her talent so well and for nearly two hundred years this perception of her meticulously crafted miniatures of Regency era country families has prevailed.
Illustrations from Pride and Prejudice, The Folio Society (2006)
In illustrating Austen’s works, I have found that the artists who succeed in translating her exquisitely drawn characters and scenes are those who also apply the same fine brush to their work. Over the years, we have seen varied degrees of success at this attempt by prominent artists of their time; however Hugh Thomson, Charles E. Brock and Chris Hammond are prime examples of those who I feel have excelled. Recently, I have come to include illustrator Niroot Puttapipat in this group. His illustrations for The Folio Societies new editions of Pride and Prejudice (2006), Emma (2007), and Persuasion (2007), reveal a delicate and exacting touch that Austen would have appreciated. The finey bound and slip cased editions contain seven intimate and finely detailed pen & ink and watercolor drawings of important scenes from the novels and one cameo of each of the heroines on the front cover. Each piece is a masterwork at characterization, period detail and artistic craftsmanship.
Illustration from Emma, The Folio Society (2007)
Puttapipat’s attention to detail is remarkable, as each characters clothing and fabric match their appropriate station in life. The example above is one of my favorites from Emma and represents the scene where Emma Woodhouse is walking with Harriet Smith and Mr. Elton and contrives a broken shoe lace to lag behind to allow them to walk on together and advance her desire to cultivate their romance. The distinction between Emma’s fine attire in her pelisse, fur muff and elegant bonnet and her little friend Harriet’s more humble muslins shows great perception of class distinction during Austen’s times. This is an important theme in understanding the novel Emma, and Puttapipat has relayed it beautifully.
I’m fascinated by history and historical costume anyway and have a good idea of (in this case) Regency/Empire clothing, but research is always important especially when illustrating something in a ‘real’ context. With period pieces such as these, it’s not only important to understand the clothes they wore, but the customs, manners, mores etc.
Raised in Thailand, Puttapipat is the grandson of a Lan Na a Thai princess. His interest in art and literature was cultivated as a young child spending time drawing and acting out stories. A graduate of Kingston University, he now lives in London. You can visit him at Deviant Art and view many more images of his incredibly beautiful illustrations in his online gallery and catch up on his upcoming projects in his journal. Best of luck Niroot. We look forward to your future editions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park when you complete your commissions for The Folio Society.
Illustrations from Persuasion, The Folio Society (2007)
Purchase The Folio Society editions of Jane Austen’s novels.
Visit Niroot Puttapipat at Diviant Art