Fantastic Art edited by David Larkin (art book review).

Never let it be said that I don’t review contemporary artbooks. Although granted, this one was released in 1973. Even more remarkable, is the first half of the book is devoted to the fantasy art from artists over two centuries ago. The latter half is of more modern artists but as you check the dates they were born, very few of them are still alive today so this book takes some historical importance.

Most of the 34 artists have only one picture plate even, a couple with one more and one with an enlargement for detail. None of the pictures cross over the fold in the book although the landscape rotation leaves a lot of wasted space. The text for each painting is at the front of the book, so be prepared to read and flick throughout. Even back then, I think I would have questioned why it that way when the text could easily have been put on the opposite page when title details are given.

What was most surprising was seeing so many artists who are known for doing standard art doing fantasy pieces, including J.M.W. Turner. There was even one mad one, Richard Dadd, who later killed his own father.

There are some interesting pieces included. Several of them, like Franz Floris detail a landscape to resemble a human head or body. Some play with mythology and someone like Clovis Trouille has a piece that wouldn’t be out of place on an SF cover.

If you are looking to picking up early fantasy artbooks, it might be worth picking this one up if only to see some of the really early fantasy art.

GF Willmetts

January 2018

(pub: Pan/Ballantine, 1973. 50 page large illustrated softcover. Price: I paid around £ 1.95 (UK). ISBN: 0-345-09797-1)

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