Sunday, August 10, 2008

So long, Pauline Baynes

The Eerdmans August newsletter reports:

Children’s book illustrator Pauline Baynes passed away on August 1, 2008, at the age of 85. Baynes drew the original line illustrations for J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Her portrayals of Middle-earth and Narnia helped transform the books into towering classics which, in 2000, were voted Book of the Millennium and Children’s Book of the Millennium respectively by the Library Association in Great Britain. Baynes was also awarded a Kate Greenaway Medal for the Dictionary of Chivalry.

I first encountered Pauline Baynes when I first noticed the Narnia Chronicles sitting on Pastor Wine's (yes, funny name for a Baptist, but Stewart Wine is a funny guy) desk in the study of our wonderfully creepy nineteenth-century English church building - a great setting for an introduction to Ms. Baynes. Her work possesses a style that struck me as peculiar even as a third-grader - otherworldly, yet quite welcoming; playful, yet most serious (not unlike the effect of medieval art). Perhaps I'm making too much weather out of her work. Regardless, her illustrations are infinitely superior to the melodramatic teen-romance schlock, completely lacking in mythic quality, that currently disgrace the covers of Lewis' classic series.

Read Baynes' obituaries in The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph. You can spy samples of her classic work at the Tolkien Library. I wonder if Ms. Baynes may have provided some inspiration for Tolkien's exultant short story "Leaf by Niggle."

EXTRA: Be sure to check out Brian Sibley's post on Pauline Baynes, complete with cool photo.

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