I came across these charming woodcuts some time ago on a blog about book illustration and design. The illustrations come from two books of poetry and stories by Walter de la Mare, which list the illustrator as “Bold,” and that’s all I know. Another site gives the name Alan Bold, but still no further information. So let’s look at these wood block prints purely on their own.
First, my favorite, a wonderfully strange bird in the smiling moonlight. Is the bird perched there on the smooth trunk, or poised mid-leap? Is it chasing the man, does the man flee it, or is there something else in the distance from which the man is running so frantically that he’s lost his hat?
I think the bird-creature has a benign look, but there’s no doubt that this little imp means trouble. Camouflaged among the leaves, he’s plotting his next mischievous move. It could be anything from pinching the baby to slitting the throats and drinking the blood of the entire family. The malice is unmistakeable.
Though perhaps not quite so evil, I definitely wouldn’t trust this sprite. I have the feeling that he doesn’t strike a bargain without being quite sure he’ll be getting the better end of the deal. Oh, he’ll flatter you and make you feel clever, but don’t underestimate him. He may be no larger than a tulip, but he has magic, never doubt it.
The carving of this witch is particularly interesting. Lurking in the shadows, her form is pulled into the light by hundreds of sharp, skinny strokes. The only large areas of white are the light from the doorway where a man peers into the dark hut, and the cat’s huge, glowing eyes staring, not at the intruding man or the mistress witch, but at YOU! (I like the owl up in the rafters, too.)
And finally, a strange fish gliding through the underwater gloom. Is it a human in fish form, or a fish in human form, or some sort of merperson? I suppose I’d know the answers if I read the poem by de la Mare, but it’s kind of fun just wondering. I especially like the fish’s ear, as well as the fish-face swimming toward us - not an easy view to depict.
I really like these wood block prints and think they’re perfect evocations of strangeness and mystery. I’m sorry not to know anything about the artist. But I will be sharing a few more images by Bold on another day, so that’s something to look forward to.
[Pictures: Four woodcuts by Alan Bold from Stuff and Nonsense, and So On by Walter de la Mare, 1927;
Witch, woodcut by Bold from Broomsticks and Other Tales by de la Mare, 1925
(Images from 50 Watts).]