Iconic Images: Merlin

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Aubrey Beardsley (British, 1872-1898). Merlin and Nimue. An artist’s proof, initialed in pencil “AB.”

An author and illustrator, Beardsley took the art world by storm with his commissioned illustrations for the Dent edition of Malory’s Morte (1893). Those remarkable pen-and-ink drawings, which were erotic and sensual (but many of which did not correspond to the actual text), brought him tremendous notoriety. With their clean lines and striking imagery, they showed the influence of Art Nouveau and Japanese woodblocks. Beardsley’s death at the age of twenty-five only added to his celebrity.

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Dora Curtis (British, 1875-1920). Merlin and Vivien. An original drawing illustrating the line “She caused the rock to shut down,” for Beatrice Clay’s Stories of King Arthur and the Round Table (1905).

In her Arthurian illustrations, British artist and illustrator Dora Curtis showed a deep sensitivity for the women, including Vivien and Arthur’s nemesis Morgan le Fay, and often foregrounded them in her artwork.

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Bryson Burroughs (American, 1869-1934). Study for The Well of Merlin. Pencil and crayon on paper, with signature stamp lower right.

A painter and student of artist Pubis de Chavannes, Burroughs became the Curator of Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  During his tenure in that influential position, he purchased works by many European masters; but, notably, he also added American artists to the Met’s collection.

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Alan Lee (British, b. 1946). Merlin. A numbered print signed in pencil.

Lee is an actor, illustrator, conceptual designer, and set designer known for his work on the Tolkien Lord of the Rings films. His many awards include an Oscar for Best Art Direction for the last film in that trilogy. Among his highly popular books are Castles, Fairies, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings sketchbooks, and other Tolkien editions.

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Alan Lee. Merlin. Poster used as a cover image for an issue of Avalon to Camelot published by Freya Reeves. Signed in pencil and inscribed “For Alan Lupack,” then-editor of the journal.

All text for Visualizing Camelot © by Alan Lupack and Barbara Tepa Lupack, 2023-2024.