February 21, 2012

Creature Collections: Artists' Edition

        I was originally thinking of this post as "Field Guides, Part III," until it occurred to me that not one of these particular selections is in faux field guide format.  I've
broadened my scope to something more accurately called "Creature Collections."  And this time around I've found three creature collections that are really built around their illustrations, featuring the work of famous artists and illustrators.

       A Book of Dragons, Hosie and Leonard Baskin - This book presents twenty dragonoids, each with a page of text and a page of picture in Leonard Baskin's intense, inky style.  The creatures are pulled from various sources, from Tiamat to Smaug, with a couple of whimsical oddities such as the Fold-up Dragon.  If you insist on traditional versions you might not appreciate Baskin's personal interpretation of some of these dragons, but I enjoyed them for variety's sake.

       Eric Carle's Dragons Dragons and other creatures that never were, compiled by Laura Whipple - This is an anthology of poems about various mythical
creatures, each illustrated with Carle's bright collages.  It includes a nice selection of beasts, and I plan to feature some of the poems in an upcoming post.  Carle's depictions are more bold than mystical, but I think they generally capture the spirit well.  But I did have one reservation: how do people feel about Ganesh included as a "creature that never was"?  Is this different from including, say, ancient Egyptian animal-headed gods?

       Here Be Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary, Ariane Delacampagne and Christian Delacampagne - Not a children's book, this is intended as a scholarly work on the symbolism, psychology, and cultural uses of fantastic beasts through history and around the world.  I didn't even read the whole thing cover to cover.  But I did look at all the pictures, and I enjoyed them thoroughly, too.  Older children especially would probably find lots to interest them in this oversized volume with its beautiful photographs of works of art from a broad range of cultures.  There are carvings, paintings, mosaics, pottery, textiles, and more, all showing fantastic beasts, divided up into five categories: unicorns, human-headed animals, animal-headed humans, flying quadrupeds, and dragons.  It's a beautiful tribute to the strange and marvelous workings of the human imagination.

        Do you know of any other fantastic bestiaries illustrated by noted or notable artists?  If so, I'd love to hear about them.

[Pictures: cover of A Book of Dragons, painting by Leonard Baskin, published 1985;
dragon from Dragons, Dragons, mixed media and collage by Eric Carle, published 2004;
creatures from a manuscript of Marco Polo's Book of Marvels, c. 1410, reproduced in Here by Dragons.]

1 comment:

  1. I have not seen Laura Whipple's compilation of Eric Carle's Dragons, but I share your reservation about including Ganesh, very much part of an active, living faith tradition. I am not aware of the ancient Egyptian creature-headed gods and goddesses being part of a currently-practiced religious group. It's not that there is a dearth of "creatures that never were" from which Whipple and Carle could find examples.

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