Artist’s Birthday: Arthur Rackham
They say that the best way to see fairies is slantwise, out of the corner of your eye.
Twisting, twirling, pirouetting india ink, delighted detail, subtle washes of colour and something sinister: the drawings of Arthur Rackham. Fairies swirl into trees, spin into trolls, spin into wild flowers.
It’s English illustrator Arthur Rackham’s 149th birthday today — or his third Chiron Return.
And understanding Chiron in Pisces might be critical to understanding his work. Rackham drew the stunted, hunched, lame creatures of magic — the trolls and dwarves, giants and witches, wind-blasted hawthorns and twisted oaks — with a kind of beady zest that seemed to come from an intimate understanding of what it’s like to feel different. What should be ugly is beautiful.
Rackham’s Venus in Virgo (art, craft and details), tight to the Sun, sits directly opposite Chiron. That Chiron also draws a direct (or always indirect) quincunx from Mars in Libra, again the sign of design or art, pattern-making. Rackham’s Chiron placement tells us something about the meaning of Chiron. Rackham brings the uncanny to life in his drawings. Mars enlivens, vitalises.
He sees the world of magic with the critical, cool gaze of a clever child (Mercury and Sun in Virgo), but there’s never anything whimsical or twee. Virgo is earthy, after all.
Rackham’s drawings are line and rhythm, twisting beauty to horror, to beauty again. If you’ve ever spent a lot of time being ill in bed, maybe you turned a stain on the wallpaper into a face, or the drape of a dressing gown into a troll. When you’re a little feverish, a little out of sorts, the very familiar becomes very strange.