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aurence Housman was one of the most celebrated illustrators of the final years of the nineteenth century. Practising an Art Nouveau style, his books are highly valued for their studied elegance. His treatment of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market(1893) is perhaps his most celebrated book. However, his illustrations were far more than decorative, enshrining a sophisticated, interpretive approach to his literary material. It is not surprising that he admired Pre-Raphaelite illustration as it appeared in the Moxon Tennyson of 1857, and which offered an imaginative, rather than literal, approach to the question of visualizing a text. His views on the subject are outlined in his introduction to Arthur Boyd Houghton, a picture book of images struck from the original wood-blocks:

The revolution which the Pre-Raphaelites were bringing about by their interpretive and symbolic method, their personal points of view and their opposition to all merely traditional forms in art, showed itself as much in their book illustrations as in their paintings . . . The illustrations of the Pre-Raphaelites were personal and intellectual readings of the poems to which they belonged, not merely echoes in line of the words of the text. Often they were the successful summing up of the drift of an entire poem within the space of a single picture. [13]


Arthur Boyd Houghton. Introduction by Laurence Housman. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Trübner, 1896.

Created 9 May 2015