Jane Austen Illustrators: Niroot Puttapipat

Closeup of Elizabeth Bennet, by Niroot Puttapipat, Pride and Prejudice, The Folio Society (2006)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. 

Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, Pride and Prejudice, The Folio Society (2006)       Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, Pride and Prejudice, The Folio Society (2006)    

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 by Niroot Puttapipat, Emma, The Folio Society (2007)

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.

Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, Persuasion, The Folio Society (2007)     Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, Persuasion, The Folio Society (2007)

Illustrations from Persuasion, The Folio Society (2007)

Purchase The Folio Society editions of Jane Austen’s novels.

Visit Niroot Puttapipat at Diviant Art

Emma Woodhouse: Poverty, Marriage & Pedestals!

Illustration by Edmund H. Garrett, Emma, Roberts Bros, Boston (1892)“Dear me! it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!”  

“I have none of the usual inducements of women to marry. Were I to fall in love, indeed, it would be a different thing! but I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall. And, without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want; employment I do not want; consequence I do not want: I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband’s house, as I am of Hartfield; and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as I am in my father’s.”  

“But then, to be an old maid at last, like Miss Bates!”  

“That is as formidable an image as you could present, Harriet; and if I thought I should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly — so satisfied — so smiling — so prosing — so undistinguishing and unfastidious — and so apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow. But between us, I am convinced there never can be any likeness, except in being unmarried.”  

“But still, you will be an old maid — and that’s so dreadful!”  

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else. And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first; for a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Harriet Smith and Emma Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 10 

Miss Emma Woodhouse is such a prig! She proclaims that only poverty makes an old maid contemptible. Oh really? She need not marry because it offers her nothing that she does not already possess: fortune, employment or consequence. Arrogance! The first time a read Emma, I scowled so much my face hurt. 

Some readers complain that they can not identify with Emma. Jane Austen has certainly created “a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” It is difficult for a reader to sympathize with her struggles, because her arrogance is her biggest fault, and who can feel empathy with that? When I think of other literary heroines we love to hate, I think of Scarlet O’Hara, that smug southern belle in Gone With the Wind. Even though we want to give them both a swift kick in the rear, we are mesmerized over the prospect of what silliness they will do next and who will eventually knock them off their self appointed pedestals. It’s along fall, but worth the wait! 

*Illustration by Edmund H. Garrett, Emma, Chapter 10, Roberts Bros, Boston (1892)

Vintage flourish urn

Jane Austen Illustrators: Maximilien Vox

Closeup of illustration from Persuasion by Maximilien Vox (1934)“And by my treatment of the pictures I have tried to attune myself to an art which never stresses, records only the essential, draws rather than paints: an art which aims at grace and rhythm rather than at intensity of expression.” Maximilien Vox on Jane Austen

Many book illustrators have attempted to interpret Jane Austen’s characters over the years. Some have succeeded, though it is a challenge for any artist to transform the essence of Austen’s intension visually since so little description was forthcoming in her novels, leaving the reader to apply their own interpretation. Even though I admire this artistic choice by Austen, her illustrators have had a less than clear picture and have taken free rein. One artist that added his own unique view was Maximilien Vox (1894-1974), a distinguished French illustrator, painter and art critic best known as a typographer, historian and teacher. In the 1933-34 editions of The Works of Jane Austen, illustrated by Maximilien Vox, [1] published by J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, Vox adds his distinctive style to the seven volume set which includes the six major novels, and one volume of Sandition and other miscellanea. 

Illustration from Sense and Sensibility by Maximilien Vox (1933)            Illustration from Pride and Prejudice by Maximilien Vox (1933)

Each book contains eight sepia line drawings enhanced with delicate pastel watercolours representing significant scenes from the novels chosen by the artist. As you can see by the several images from each of the novels and miscellanea, they are much different in style than his famous Victorian predecessors the brothers C. E. & H. M. Brock, or Hugh Thomson. By 1933, the Art Deco movement that had originated in Paris was in full swing, inspiring Monsieur Vox who resided in the Mecca of progressive art. You can see the Deco influence in his approach, with simplistic forms, characters expressionlessly gazing away from the viewer, and a stylistic choice of the pale pallet of sepia for the lines and pastels for the forms.

Illustration from Mansfield Park by Maximilien Vox (1934)          Illustration from Emma by Maximilien Vox (1934) 

This fresh and unique artist was the choice of Hugh Dent, the son of the famous London book publisher Joseph Malaby Dent (1849-1926) who founded J. M. Dent & Sons in 1888. J. M. Dent was a self made man and visionary who created the Everyman’s Library series bringing the classics to the masses at reasonable prices. In 1892, J. M. Dent published a ten volume set (sold separately) of The Novels of Jane Austen presenting new illustrations by William C. Cooke and edited by R. Brimley Johnson. This edition is considered ‘the first really independent issue of novels – Bentley’s edition having previously held the field.’ [2] J.M. Dent also began publishing high quality limited editions of classic literature under the Temple Library imprint in 1894 which included another ten set edition of The Novels of Jane Austen featuring colored illustrations by C. E. and H. M. Brock. [3] This is the edition that has been heavily reproduced over the years making the Brock brothers the most published illustrator connected to Jane Austen. 

 Illustration from Northanger Abbey, by Maximilien Vox (1934)            Illustration from Persuasion by Maximilien Vox (1934)

Included in the first volume, Sense and Sensibility, is an unusual addition following the introduction by Emile Legouis; a letter to the editor Hugh Dent by the illustrator himself and written in French (and translated into English) . This revealing missive gives us a look into the illustrator’s inspiration and creative process for his artwork. Of note is his admiration and esteem for Austen’s work, and the inclusion of a quote from Sense and Sensibility to conclude his letter relaying his complete understanding and reverence for his subject and her characters. His aim in emulating Jane Austen’s genuis as “an art which never stresses, records only the essential, draws rather than paints: an art which aims at grace and rhythm rather than at intensity of expression.”, is achieved with his own delicately nuanced interpretations. 

Closeup of illustration from Sense and Sensibility by Maximilien Vox (1933)Prefatory Letter by Maximilien Vox 

Dear Mr. Dent, 

Now that I have finished the illustrations of Jane Austen’s novels I have, I assure you, much for which to thank you. Firstly for the pleasure of our personal relationship; secondly for the perfection of the coloured reproductions, in which the character of the line and freshness of tone of the originals have been so faithfully followed; and finally because it is a privilege for a French artist, who is partly British by descent and culture, to offer his work under your patronage to the judgment of the English public. 

But above all I am grateful to you for the opportunity you have given me of steeping myself in a work so charged, not only with genius, but with hidden meaning and delicate nuances. I have attempted, in each book, by my drawings, to differentiate the individuality and original psychology underlying the superficial similarity of character and plot, and to show how this world, apparently composed entirely f well brought-up young ladies, eligible young gentlemen, and sententious middle-aged ones, really comprises a complete universe by virtue of its variety and dramatic resource, And by my treatment of the pictures I have tried to attune myself to an art which never stresses, records only the essential, draws rather than paints: an art which aims at grace and rhythm rather than at intensity of expression. 

As for costume and fashion, I have only indicated them, emphasizing simply the changes from the eighteenth century to early nineteenth. And this, perhaps for a Frenchman, is the most striking evidence of the nationality of Jane Austen’s work – that she portrays as a period of slow, almost imperceptible social transition that very period which in our history stands for violent revolution. For in all respects, in her picture of manners and ideas, Jane Austen belongs to the century in which she is born, and which has given her so international an outlook that she might well belong to us; she would have caused usIllustration from The Watsons by Maximilien Vox (1934) no surprise by signing herself  ‘Mademoiselle Jeanne Austain’. 

Such at any rate, dear Mr. Dent, are the various ideas which have governed the play of my pencil on the paper; you will forgive me if, to use our author’s words, ‘I have brought no Restraint to the Expression of Sentiments in themselves not Illaudable’. [4] 

M. V. 

Pairs, 15 January 1933 

Footnotes 

  1. Gilson, David – A Bibliography of Jane Austen, St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester (1997) E181, pp308
  2. Gilson, David – A Bibliography of Jane Austen, St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester (1997) E76, pp263
  3. Gilson, David – A Bibliography of Jane Austen, St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester (1997) E90, pp272
  4. Austen, Jane – Sense and Sensibility, chapter 11 “Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.”

Jane Austen Illustrators: Douglas Warner Gorsline

Title Page of Pride and Prejudice, John C. Winston Co, (1949)

Douglas Warner Gorsline (1913-1985) was an American book illustrator and fine artist whose line drawings and full color paintings were included in the 1949 edition of Pride and Prejudice, published by The John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia. The book was part of a series of the ten greatest novels in the world selected by author W. Somerset Maugham

Illustration by Douglas W. Gorsline, Pride and Prejudice, (1949)
Elizabeth continued her walk alone 

Here is a short biography on his early life and career by Thomas L. Johnson, Ph.D, the curator of an exhibit on his work entitled People Reading: Selections from the Collection of Donald and Patricia Oresman. 

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