I can’t add anything at all to the information already available on the web, but my enthusiasm demands that I introduce this artist to you in case you don’t already know her name.
Pauline Baynes was the wonderful illustrator who illustrated most of J.R.R. Tolkein’s works as well as all the Narnia books and many others.
Brian Sibley, an amazingly prolific British writer who knows everyone and everything as far as I can tell, put up a lovely tribute page to Pauline Baynes where I got some of this information. http://www.paulinebaynes.com/
From Brian Sibley:
Tolkien had written Farmer Giles of Ham, a humorous novella about dragons and knight-errantry set in a faux-medieval period, but was dissatisfied with the work of the artist who had been chosen asillustrator. Baynes’s work caught Tolkien’s eye and she got the job, creating a lively set of pictures that wittily pastiche the look of illuminated medieval manuscripts. So perfectly did Baynes capture the essence of Tolkien’s tale that he declared them to be “more than illustrations, they are a collateral theme”. He also delighted in reporting that friends had said that her pictures had succeeded in reducing his text to “a commentary on the drawings”.
It was her association with Tolkein that made it possible for her to meet C.S. Lewis. However, they only met twice in person, and while they were cordial, he never really had a great respect for her work, even though it became so popular and depicted Narnia so beautifully. He told his biographer that “she couldn’t draw lions.”
I wonder whether he liked her dragons.
When I was a kid, I never considered that the author and the illustrator might be so separated from each other. That particular set of illustrations goes with that book, and no others will do. It would make more sense if the author and illustrator worked together, and it does seem that way in all the best books. So I’m somewhat mystified that anyone who loved Narnia could be so crazy as to suggest it needed new illustrations, which has happened in recent years. Pauline Baynes’s illustrations ARE the Narnia illustrations.
I’m sure I was an adult before I recognized her connection to the cover of that famous Penguin edition of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy that she drew, and I had never noticed her other works until I started going to library book sales.
Remember this one? I traded a boxed set of three paperbacks of the Lord of the Rings to my brother for this fat copy when I was twelve. Always regretted that for some reason. I love boxed sets and still have my old boxed set of paperbacks of the Narnia books, too.
The way I predict a book will be good is if it has illustrations I like. I guess it’s because I’m so visually oriented. I always judge a book by its cover, although now I have an awareness that maybe I shouldn’t be so consistent about it. But I bought books that way for many years while I was homeschooling my kids, and got some gems from the library sales that would have otherwise been ignored. There must have been a golden age of illustration in England as well as the USA, because I discovered some terrific illustrators over the years. Now, of course, I’ve learned the names of most of the illustrators I love best. But I digress.
Again from Brian Sibley’s site:
“Met C.S. Lewis. Came home. Made rock cakes.” That’s how Baynes’s diary recorded one of only two meetings she ever had with the author whose work she so memorably pictured and with whom she is now inextricably linked. The relationship between author and artist was cordial and professional but without the depth of respect and affection existing between Baynes and Tolkien. For readers of the books, however, the pictures were, and have remained, an integral part of the whole culture of Narnia – not even displaced by the big-screen dazzlements of the recent movie versions.
In her article “The Woman Who Drew Narnia,” Charlotte Cory relates her own childhood reaction to the death of C.S. Lewis and also describes that moment of truth when she realized that the stories were a Christian allegory. If you were also a Narnia reader from an early age, do you remember the moment that you recognized the religious parallels? I also remember feeling “conned” but since that happened when I was older, it didn’t traumatize me as much as the previous event when I found out Narnia wasn’t “real.” Interestingly enough, Pauline Baynes did not recognize it at all when she drew all those pictures, it only came to her years later. Charlotte’s story is really worth reading:
Finally, here’s a link to the Google Images page that shows a huge collection of her illustrations. If you’ve liked what I’ve shown you so far, you’ll love that page, too.