Jane Austen Illustrators

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

Jane Austen Illustrators, Jane Austen's Life & Times

Jane Austen Illustrated: Portraits – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Engraving of Jane Austen (1873) Jane Austen make-over (2007)

Before make-over, and after

A few years back, a publisher decided Jane Austen’s portrait by a Victorian era artist was too ugly to put on a book cover and decided to give her a make-over adding a new hair do and makeup.

She was not much of a looker,” said Helen Trayler, managing director of publisher Wordsworth Editions.

It is debatable if the results could be classified as an improvement. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder one hears, so I will have to dish this new and improved Jane as clownish failure. Above is the before and after for your consideration.

We do not know unequivocally what Jane Austen looked like. Her sister Cassandra was an artist and did compose the one signed and dated sketch of her in 1804 sitting out of doors, her face gazing away from view and concealed by a large blue bonnet. Not much help. The second unfinished and unsigned pencil sketch and water color painting thought to also have been composed by her sister circa 1810 is the earliest portrait that we associate with her. The two sketches were entrusted to Cassandra Esten ‘Cassie’ Austen (1808-1897) Jane Austen’s niece (daughter of her brother Charles) by Cassandra to whom she had been close in her later years. The front view portrait remained in the family until around 1920, and then was purchased from a private party in 1948 by the National Portrait Gallery in London where it resides today. Renowned Austen scholar R.W. Chapman flatly did not like the portrait. Others thought it an ‘unflattering picture of a real person’ [1] or that it relayed the ‘testy skepticism, the tough personality‘ [2] of the sitter by Cassandra.  I like it. My impression of her severe expression is that she did not want her likeness taken and preferred to remain anonymous like her novels; — by a Lady.

Watercolor sketch of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (1804) Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra ca 1810

Cassandra Austen’s artist impression of her sister Jane

1.) Right, Cassandra Austen’s watercolor sketch ca 1810. The begining.

Even thought there is no documentation that this little sketch is of Jane, her niece Cassie Austen believed it to be so and offered it to her first cousin James Edward Austen-Leigh in 1869 when he needed a portrait for the frontispiece of his book A Memoir of Jane Austen published the following year. He and the publisher found Cassandra’s sketch to be unsatisfactory for their needs and commissioned a new portrait from James Andrews of Maidenhead who produced a watercolor sketch which was engraved by Lizzars. Upon seeing the new artist rendering, Cassie Austen remarked, ‘It is a very pleasing sweet face – tho, I confess, to not thinking it much like the original‘ [3]. The new interpretation was thought to make Austen more presentable to the Victorian readers by softening her features with larger eyes, fuller lips and a more gentle expression – her first official make-over. It would not be the last. What has evolved over the years is quite amusing, presenting readers with the good, the bad and the downright ugly images of our beloved author. Here are a few that I have collected over the years. You may be your own judge as to which you prefer and have your say by voting in our poll at the end of the post.

Lizzars portrait of Jane Austen (1870) Engraving of Jane Austen (1873)

2.) Left, Lizzars engraving after James Andrews new portrait was the frontis of A Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh (1870). Jane is Victorianized.

3.) Right, the ‘Wedding Ring Portrait’ engraved for Everet A. Duyckink’s Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women of Europe and America (1873). This image above all others is the most often seen.

The 'Rice portrait' attributed to Ozias Humphry circa (1800)

4.) The ‘Rice Portrait’ now attributed to Ozias Humphrey. This famous oil painting was first used as the frontis in The Letters of Jane Austen, edited by Lord Brabourne in 1883. Controversially, it is still owned by the Rice family who recently unsuccessfully tried to sell it by auction at Christies for a bundle.

Engraving of Jane Austen by M. Lamont Brown (1893) Portrait of Jane Austen by Y.H., (1909)

4.) Left, the ‘Fine eyed Jane’ version by M. Lamont Brown, was engraved for the frontis of In the Footsteps of Jane Austen, by Oscar Fay Adams, The New England Magazine, vol. 14, issue 5 (July 1893). My favorite image with Lizzy eyes, it is used in my header banner above.

5.) Right, signed by Y.H., this portrait was used as the frontis in Jane Austen and her Country House Comedy, by W.H. Helm (1909). I rather like it.

Portrait of Jane Austen by Lily Harmon (1945) Wood engraving of Jane Austen by Edward Price (1952)

6.)  Left, ‘Jane the debutant’ frontis by Lily Harmon, Pride and Prejudice, Books, INC. (1945). You can see the Hollywood influence of diaphanous frock a la P&P movie of 1940.

7.) Right, ‘Frightening Jane’ by Edward Price, frontis for Presenting Miss Jane Austen, by Mary Lamberton Becker (1952). A cross between the witches of Eastwick and Anne Boleyn. Could this be more unattractive or scary?

Portrait of Jane Austen by Jane Odiwe (2008) Portrait of Jane Austen by Mike Caplanis circa (2007)

8.) Left, ‘Charming Jane’ by Jane Odiwe, artist and author of Lydia Bennet’s Story (2008). A modern interpretation that is both pleasing and true to Cassandra’s painting.

9.) Right, ‘Big nosed Jane’ by Mike Caplanis of Literary Luminaries is fun and not too offensive, though she does look a bit like actor W.C. Fields.

Portrait of Jane Austen, by Rocco Fazzari (2008) Portrait of Jane Austen by J. Bone, circa (2007)

10.) Left, ‘Doe eyed Jane’ by Rocco Fazzari makes her looks harmless. We know better!

11.) Right, ‘Literary Jane’ by J. Bone appears all business. We happily agree.

There are numerous other images of our Jane floating around out there; — some surprising, some shocking, all interesting. We are continually amused at how her public persona has evolved, and am all anticipation of the next one to appear.


  1. Helen Denman, ‘The Portraits’, in The Jane Austen Companion, Macmillan (1986)
  2. Margaret Ann Doody and Douglas Murray, A Portrait of Jane Austen, (private printing) 1995
  3. Cassie Austen p. 280, Austen-Leigh, William and Richard, Jane Austen: A Family Record (1913)
Jane Austen Illustrators

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 


  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.”
Austenesque, Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey, Guest Blog, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Illustrators

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: Guest Bloggers Trina Robbins & Anne Timmons Chat about Gothic Classics: Day 17 Giveaway!

Think of Northanger Abbey in a graphic novel format with all of its energy and Gothic allusions visually popping right off the page, and you will have a good notion of what author Trina Robbins and illustrator Anne Timmons have created in their frightfully enchanting version of Northanger Abbey included in Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Fourteen. Today both author and illustrator are joining us to chat about their inspiration and the design procession of transforming Jane Austen’s Gothic parody into a graphic novel. Enjoy!  

Writing Jane

by Trina Robbins

Imagine you’re a Jane Austen fan (not hard to do!) and you write graphic novels — and a publisher asks you to adapt a Jane Austen novel into graphic novel form.  The result, of course, is hog heaven!

I have actually adapted TWO Jane Austen books into graphic novel form.  The first, about five years ago, was for Scholastic, for their series of graphic novel adaptations for classrooms. I picked one of my two favorite Austen novels, Emma, to adapt into a twenty-seven page graphic novel.  But because I was writing for elementary school kids, there were constraints.  Sex does not exist in elementary school rooms, so Harriet could not be a “natural daughter.”  Kids would have wondered what that meant, and any explanations would have produced letters from angry parents.  So I turned her into an orphan.  Emma and Harriet could not be waylaid by gypsies, either, because representing gypsies as criminals is racist, so they simply became a group of rough men who demanded the girl’s purses.

Nonetheless, I got fan mail from elementary school kids, addressed to “Ms. Jane Austen and Ms. Trina Robbins,” saying how much they liked the book.  I answered all the letters, telling the young readers that I was sorry to inform them that Jane Austen had died over two hundred years ago, but that if they liked the comic, perhaps someday they might read the book.

Then Tom Pomplun, editor of Graphic Classics asked me to adapt Northanger Abbey, which just so happens to be my OTHER favorite Austen novel (Northanger Abbey and Emma are her two funniest!), to be illustrated by Anne Timmons, with whom I’ve worked on so many other comics (including our own series, GoGirl!) that I can call her my partner in crime.  And in forty pages with no constraints!

Adapting any classic novel (I also adapted Bronte and Dickens for Scholastic) is like solving a delightful puzzle — what to keep, what to leave out. My first step is to buy the oldest, cheapest, most used softcover edition I can find.  I take a highlighter and a black felt-tip marker to it, highlighting the parts I want to keep, blacking out the parts that have to go. I can’t begin to describe how much it goes against the grain for me to mark up a book like that!

Working with Anne Timmons is a pleasure!  When I describe something, she understands perfectly and draws exactly what I had in mind.  Northanger Abbey is drawn in a cute and lighthearted style because that’s the way I see the book.  Catherine is young, naive, and big-eyed.  And she is a hopeless romantic, so some scenes, such as when Catherine runs in tears from Henry, who has just dressed her down because of her suspicions about his father, or when she lies in bed weeping because the General has ordered her to leave in the morning, might have come from some romance comic.

And Anne, bless her,  understands the fashions!  In the past, I have had dreadful experiences working with male artists (none of whom I chose) who never looked at the reams of fashion reference I always send with my scripts, obviously thinking that if you drew the female characters in long skirts, that was good enough.  And you know how important the right clothes are in a Jane Austen novel!  I’m sure we all agree that the worst Austen movie adaptation ever was that Greer Garson Pride and Prejudice, where for some bizarre reason, the producers decided to change the time period to the 1840s or 1850s.

Currently, Anne and I are working on an adaptation of Little Women, for the same publisher.  I couldn’t be happier!

Catherine Morland & Isabella Thorpe read Gothic novels in the
Gothic Classics edition of Northanger Abbey (2007)

Illustrating Jane

By Anne Timmons

I was just thrilled when Tom Pomplun, publisher of Graphic Classics, asked Trina and I to work on Northanger Abbey! Trina and I have illustrated other books for the Graphic Classics line including a story for their Jack London anthology.

I was familiar with Jane Austen’s work but I had never drawn the Regency period before. I did quite a bit of research by Google-ing a lot of the costume websites. There’s a vast array of websites that contain such concise and detailed information. For example, I needed to look up what a carriage would look like in the early 1800s. And certainly, the costumes and interiors needed to be close to that time period. Lots of Northanger Abbey was set in Bath so there’s a lot of the Georgian style of architecture.

After reading the original story, I received Trina’s adapted script. I laid out the entire story in small roughed out panels, also know as thumbnails. They gave me an idea of what the page would look like. Then I drew the story in pencil. I emailed the files to Trina and Tom to look over. After they gave me suggestions and advice, I inked over the pencils and scanned the finished art. Once the art was a digital file, I could email it to the publisher who did the lettering.

One of my favorite scenes to draw was the walk at Beechen Cliff. There is a lot of excitement leading up to this moment. The fact that Catherine had to wait for more favorable weather so it would be easy on her clothes and shoes. To finally be able to walk on a dry spring day, (and not be confined indoors), would have been a wonderful experience. In my research, I discovered that the fabrics used in the gowns were often made of muslin – a very thin material. It may have been in layers but not exactly warm enough for cold weather! The Regency period was influenced by the styles of the Roman Empire. Lots of high waists and hair pulled up off the face and neck. Trina’s descriptions offer what the character may look like and I had a great time with the embellishments!

I also had a lot of fun drawing the scene where Catherine scares herself as she tries to open the cabinet in her room.

Trina and I are currently working on a graphic novel adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women which will be coming out in 2009. I will be, once again in a “Historical Costume Heaven!”

Further Reading

  • Read an interview of Trina Robbins at Jazma Online
  • Read a review of Gothic Classics at Publishers Weekly
  • Read a review of Gothic Classics at AustenBlog
  • Visit author Trina Robbins web site
  • Visit illustrator Anne Timmons web site
  • Purchase Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 14

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 17 Giveaway

Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Fourteen (2007) 

Which includes Northanger Abbey

Adapted by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Anne Timmons

Leave a comment by October 30th to qualify for the free drawing on October 31st for one copy of Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Fourteen (2007)

Upcoming event posts
Day 18 – Oct 28          Group Read NA Chapters 25-28
Day 19 – Oct 29          Gothically Inspired
Day 20 – Oct 30          Group Read NA Chapters 29-31
Day 21 – Oct 31          Go Gothic Wrap-up

Jane Austen Illustrators

Jane Austen Illustrators: Heather Sleightholm

“It is very pretty,” said Mr. Woodhouse.”So prettily done! Just as your drawings always are, my dear. I do not know any body who draws so well as you do. The only thing I do not thoroughly like is, that she seems to be sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her shoulders – and it makes one think she must catch cold.” Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 6

Folk artist Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic (Folk Art) in Oklahoma knew from a very young age that she was destined to be an artist when she sold painted rocks in her mom’s garage sales. Later, she would branch out and scavenge nearby home construction sites and take home the bits of wood to paint in the garage with her mom. Twenty years later after the birth of her daughter she left her full time job as an assistant editor and writer for a daily newspaper and turned her passion for art into a thriving cottage business in 2007 inspired by whimsical folk art and Jane Austen.

I started my little art business, Audrey Eclectic, in October 2007 and began selling mixed media folk art online and in local shops shortly thereafter. My style is basically a mix of new collage techniques with traditional American-style folk art. This business has turned out to be such a blessing and a great way to feel inspired and motivated to explore art. My daughter is also a huge inspiration to me, and I don’t think my art would be what it is now without her. She is, of course, the best thing I’ve ever made!

Wedding portraits of the Brandon’s and the Darcy’s

Recently she was commissioned to paint two wedding portraits of Jane Austen characters, the Brandon’s from Sense and Sensibility and the Darcy’s from Pride and Prejudice. I think she has truly captured the essence of both of Jane Austen’s characters in style and mood. I love the simple design and rustic technique that she used that is very indicative of early American folk art. Her inclusion of mixed media gives the works very antique yet modern result. It is amazing to know that her craft is mostly self taught.

I’ve had bits and pieces of art instruction from school. I attended art camps when I was in grade school (lots of painted popsickle sticks and puff painted t-shirts), and in high school I was admitted into the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. Through high school and college I took the run-of-the-mill drawing classes and some illustration courses, but I found that most of these classes didn’t really teach you how to draw, but gave you a series of assignments to complete. I’d have to say that most of what I can do as an artist just stems from repetition and trying new techniques. I love to draw people, especially faces, so I naturally gravitate toward portraits. I don’t think I’m very good at drawing animals or very linear and precise things like buildings. So I naturally gravitate toward loose and flowy and folksy art like the type I create because I think it showcases my strong points.

Collage of women, folk art panels

Heather is an Austen fan and understands her characters through reading the novels and seeing the movie adaptations. She would admit that Austen’s characters lend themselves extremely well to folk art because of her many interpretations of realistic characters that you and I would meet in every day life. Everyone knows a sharp and witty Elizabeth Bennet, or a romantic and emotional Marianne Dashwood. We can only hope to know a Mr. Darcy!

Because I love doing folk art style portraits, and all of Austen’s books are set in the historically correct time period when folk art portraits were all the rage, I thought the connection was obvious. I love the idea of placing myself before these characters to paint their wedding portrait or a family portrait. And although there have been countless movies of all of Austen’s books, I like to take it upon myself to recreate the characters to how I envision them look. I think Austen characters are also great art subjects because people have such an affinity for them. Even after nearly 200 years, people relate so well to Austen’s ladies and gentlemen, a strong sign of her extraordinary writing ability. That is another reason why I love to paint these characters, because people already feel like they have a relationship with the people in the painting, they know them and love them, what more could an artist ask for?

Portraits of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet

In October, Heather will be participating in the artsy collective show Indie Emporium in Tulsa, Oklahoma where she will be selling many original works of art. The show takes place October 10-11 and will also feature her paintings displayed in the show gallery. You can visit her Audrey Eclectic web site to view additional examples of her art and purchase online at the Audrey Eclectic Etsy store. Drop Heather a line at audreyecletic at gmail dot com and tell her how much you enjoyed her beautiful work, or place an order for a commission of your favorite Austen characters.

Collage Hollowed Hills Celestine

Jane Austen Illustrators, Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen's Works

Jane Austen Illustrators: Isabel Bishop

Frontis illustration of Longbourn, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)
Longbourn (frontispiece) Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)

Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was an American Social Realist Painter and Printmaker, whose contribution of illustrations to E. P. Dutton & Company’s 1976 edition of Pride and Prejudice are quite remarkable. She has been described as “the best female artist America produced aside from Mary Cassatt“, and like Cassatt, Bishop’s success lies in her extraordinary drawing ability.

Illustration of Mr. Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)         Illustration of Kitty and Lydia Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)

(left) “Now Kitty, you may cough as much as you chuse.” page 9
(right) “A walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours.” page 31

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Isabel Bishop knew early in her life that she was destined to be an artist, and in 1918 moved to New York City at the tender age of sixteen to study illustration at the New York School of Applied Design for Women. In 1920 she changed her emphasis to painting and transferred to the Art Students League where she studied under Kenneth Hayes Miller. During her studies there, she developed her realist technique as well as her sensitive approach to light and shadow.

Illustration of Mr. Collins, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)         Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Caroline Bingley, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)

(left) “Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire.” page 81
(right) “So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham!” page 101

Bishop often depicted moving figures and crowds in New York’s Union Square, which the studio that she leased from 1934 to 1978 overlooked. She is best known for her paintings and drawings of working women, hoboes, and students. Also an accomplished draughtsman, she often produced etchings based on her paintings. Her body of work illustrated the changing face of Union Square from the post-Depression milieu of the 1930s to the war protesters and students of the 1960s and ’70s.” Encyclopedia Britannica

Illustration of Col. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)          Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)

(left) “They walked towards the Parsonage together.” page 193
(right) “Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself.” page 183

The choice of Isabel Bishop by publisher E.P. Dutton to illustrate their edition of Pride and Prejudice was the perfect blending of two acclaimed artists, novelists and painter, each renown for their sensitive and honest portrayal of women. The 31 black and white ink wash paintings relay Bishop’s command of technique and innovative style, and through her thoughtful and sympathetic consideration of the novel, she has aptly chosen significant scenes to illustrate, advancing the readers enjoyment and understanding of Jane Austen’s intensions.

Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)          Illustration of Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)

(left) “The examination of all the letters which
 Jane had written to her.” page 199
(right) “Mr. Darcy…holding out a letter.” page 207

Not only is Isabel Bishop an incredibly talented artist, it appears from her inclusion of an afterword in this edition that she does not contain the giant ego that some artists of this caliber exhibit, and offers some kind words about a fellow artist’s talent and the acclaim of Pride and Prejudice.

Illustration of Kitty Wickham, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)          Illustration of Mr. Wickham and Elizabeth Bennet, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice (1976)

(left) “The door was thrown open, and she ran into the room.” page 333
(right) “She held out her hand; he kissed it with affectionate gallantry.” page 347

These drawings, for Pride and Prejudice, aim only to declare my own particular delight in the book – they are not trying the impossible task of embellishing an already complete and perfect work!

But my involvement in this undertaking has to do, also, with my feelings – wildly presumptuous – that in Jane Austen’s handling of the writer’s problem, certain minor factors relate (at the greatest possible distance) to my own efforts as an artist over fifty years. They are these: she doesn’t describe, in detail, environments; while she gives you the immediate social context of her characters, she is silent about the wider context (you don’t know the general economic situation, or that England was at war); she doesn’t allow you to care what people had on, or even about the details of their physiognomies! She governs the questions you are allowed to ask – she forbids any impulse to ask others! This sounds negative. (She herself said about her method that she “lop’t and crop’t”!) In the end what she presents to you as important convinces you utterly, in its completeness and humor, and its importance assumes monumentality.

In other words, she limits her esthetic problem and, in her case, gains great power through it.

What a lesson for visual art! In fact, the whole “modern” period of painting (since 1910) has been preoccupied with some aspect of this problem.

Isabel Bishop 1976

Illustration of Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)          Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine, by Isabel Bishop, Pride and Prejudice, Dutton (1976)     

(left) “Her sister and Bingley standing together.” page 365
(right) “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no
compliments to your mother.” page 379

Isabel Bishop’s renderings of Jane Austen’s characters and scenes in the E. P. Dutton edition of Pride and Prejudice are one of my personal favorites from my collection of illustrated editions of Jane Austen novels. Visualizing Austen is of course a personal commitment since she gave us so little in physical descriptions. I must agree with Isabel Bishop though, that by omitting the details, she gains the greater power.

Photo of Isabel Bishop sketching

Image of Isabel Bishop painting in her New York Studio (1976)

Further reading

Isabel Bishop: print maker of Union Square

Images courtesy of Dutton Books © 1976; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Austenprose.com

Jane Austen Illustrators, Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice

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. 

Continue reading “Jane Austen Illustrators: Douglas Warner Gorsline”

Jane Austen Illustrators, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen Illustrators: Imagining Sense and Sensibility

“Four years you have been engaged?” said she with a firm voice.  

“Yes; and Heaven knows how much longer we may have to wait. Poor Edward! It puts him quite out of heart.” Then taking a small miniature from her pocket, she added, “To prevent the possibility of mistake, be so good as to look at this face. It does not do him justice to be sure, but yet I think you cannot be deceived as to the person it was drew of. — I have had it above these three years.”  

She put it into her hands as she spoke, and when Elinor saw the painting, whatever other doubts her fear of a too hasty decision, or her wish of detecting falsehood might suffer to linger in her mind, she could have none of its being Edward’s face. She returned it almost instantly, acknowledging the likeness. Lucy Steele & Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 22 

With the recent viewing of the mini-series of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility on Masterpiece Classic fresh in my mind, it is interesting to remember the very first images of Jane Austen’s characters depicted in print in 1833, and published by Richard Bentley, London. This edition was the first illustrated edition of Sense and Sensibility to be published in England, and contained only two images; one a full page illustration on the frontis page of Elinor Dashwood and Lucy Steele, and the other a vignette on the title page of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. The steel- engravings were by William Greatbatch after a painting by George Pickering. (Gilson 127)

Since the artist was faced with the prospect of an entire volume to interpret, one wonders why the two scenes that are depicted were selected. I believe that they were excellent choices, revealing breakthrough moments in the story; Elinor’s discovery that Edward is secretly engaged to Lucy Steele, and the seriousness of Marianne’s illness. In hindsight, if I had been at the illustrator’s ear in 1833, I would have suggested Willoughby’s gallant rescue of the fallen Marianne, or Fanny Dashwood’s discovery of Edward’s secret engagement to Lucy Steele. The publisher Bentley who commissioned the artwork obviously thought that the story was about the two sisters depicted, and rightly so. 

It is also interesting to note that no care was taken in depicting the era appropriate attire in the illustrations. Elinor Dashwood and Lucy Steele sport the larger bonnets and fuller skirts of the early Victorian age in an attempt to appeal to the readers of 1833. Gone are the out of fashion Empire wasted frocks and simple bonnets. The publisher Richard Bentley had purchased the copyright of all six of Jane Austen’s novels, and being a businessman marketed them in a modern light. He would continue to re-issued this edition separately and in sets, and publish them in this format until 1892. 

The repose of the latter became more and more disturbed; and her sister, who watched with unremitting attention her continual change of posture, and heard the frequent but inarticulate sounds of complaint which passed her lips, was almost wishing to rouse her from so painful a slumber when Marianne, suddenly awakened by some accidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and with feverish wildness, cried out — 

“Is mama coming?” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Source citation: Gilson, David, “Later publishing history, with illustrations”, p. 127 Jane Austen in Conext, edited by Janet Todd, Cambridge Univeristy Press (2005)