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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Review of Jane Eyre Illustrated by Dame Darcy

Yes, I have recieved the books. They arrived last week, but only after I inquired at another residence hall did I find them there (and not, in fact, in my mail box). So details of the contest are still in the works. I thought I should review it now while I have the time. This will be a strange sort of review, I think because there are several ways I could approach this item: as someone who loves the novel, as a Bronte scholar, as an art critic, as someone with experience in publishing. Instead of deciding which of these perspectives to go with, I'll just mention what I notice most.

The illustrations are in ink, sometimes coloured with acrylics. The line work is naive, the compositions good, but the colouration ruins the plates. Arcylics utilised to mimic watercolours often have this effect of looking exactly like crayola markers, and that's what has happened here. In high school I knew half a dozen artists who worked in this style, and with the same effects so I recognise the drawback. Her hatching work is rushed and gives no sense of texture and little of shading. I have a feeling that the artist wants to be Aubrey Beardsley but there is a lack of originality. I like the ideas behind several images, but the artist doesn't put enough work into them to raise them above the average. Those half-dozen artists I knew where making this stuff six and seven years ago, and with more skill and creativity.

So, how do the images complement the text? Now and then parts of the compositions are evocative. The most effective piece is a panel at the top of a coloured plate which shows Helen and Jane. The rest of the plate seems to be more at home in Alice in Wonderland than at Lowood School, though. In short, I would say that what appeals to the Goth aesthetic takes precedence here over the text. This illustration of the gypsy scene is a good example. Here Mr Rochester is turned into a ridiculous caricature of a Hallowe'en style witch rather than a gypsy.

My conclusion is that this edition is interesting, and should appeal to Dame Darcy's fans, but it is neither ground-breaking, nor thoughtful, nor well excecuted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would agree. I found this edition by chance in my local (indie) book store, and the high school outcast in me was vaguely amused for five minutes.

However, I quickly remembered my Adult College Student Skeptic self, and have to agree with the opinion you have expressed. Too much goth, not enough surprises.

Wouldn't this obsession with 'goth' go down better with Wuthering Heights anyway?