January 19, 2016

Relief Block Prints of Poe

        Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday (207 years ago), and to celebrate I’ve got a few wood engravings illustrating some of his work.  First are a couple of appropriately creepy images by John Buckland Wright (UK 1897-1954).  Wright’s engraving style, with lots of black areas, warped and awkward figures, blank eyes, and looming shapes, capture well the claustrophobic horror of Poe’s tales.  Not being a fan of horror, I confess that these are not my favorite works of Poe, and nor do I actually enjoy these wood engravings.  I can, however, admire how well suited they are to their purpose.  They are ugly and nightmarish in exactly the way Poe’s tales are ugly and nightmarish.




        Poe illustrations by another artist, Douglas Percy Bliss (Scottish, 1900-1984), have a very different look to them, even though the artists were contemporaries, and the editions of Poe they illustrated were only six years apart.  Compare Bliss’s “Cask of Amontillado,” which is a straightforward scene from the story, as opposed to Wright’s evocation of the grisly result.  Bliss’s illustration isn’t as dark and horrifying, but it nevertheless still conveys the oppression and looming danger of the story, with its billowing smoke and crooked path.
        Finally, my favorite of today’s pieces, the House of Usher by Bliss.  Not horrible at all, but definitely very Gothic, this is simply a dramatic depiction of a very cool building.  I particularly like the strong vertical accents contrasted with the wind-blasted trees.


[Pictures: The Man in the Crowd, wood engraving by John Buckland Wright from The Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, 1932 edition;
The Cask of Amontillado, wood engraving by Wright from The Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales by Poe, 1932 edition (Images from 50 Watts);
The Cask of Amontillado, wood engraving by Douglas Percy Bliss from Some Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Poe, 1938 edition (Image from Pictures from an Old Book);
The House of Usher, wood engraving by Bliss from Some Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Poe, 1938 edition (Image from Pictures from an Old Book).]

1 comment:

  1. I love these POE pieces. And thank you for listing the artists' names and publications dates. (So many online don't.)

    I've spent more than 2 years now on a massive Edgar Allan Poe blog project, attempting to assemble in one place every Poe comics adaptation I can find. Lately, I've also been adding stand-alone illustration galleries. These will make nice additions (and I'll be sure to credit your blog with a "thanks to"!).

    http://professorhswaybackmachine.blogspot.com/2015/02/poe-1943.html

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