“Rossetti's Illustrations for Poe,”
Marillier, DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 24.◦
The Pre–Raphaelites , Tate 1984, 243.◦
Surtees, A Catalogue Raisonné,
vol. 1, 4 (no. 19).
The remarkable set of drawings illustrates Poe's The Raven. The series represents a defining moment in
DGR's artistic life, both in literature and in art. There are four
known illustrations by DGR of Poe's famous poem: an early (ca. 1846)
chiaroscuro drawing, plus three
later pieces (all ca. 1848) in a markedly different style: a
pen and wash drawing on
light-brown paper, another pen
and wash (on light blue paper), and a
pen and pencil drawing. All
three of the later drawings are linear and sharply articulated, and they
clearly relate to the same stylistic urgencies that led DGR to help in the
formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
That Poe should have been the occasion for this artistic
change is both interesting and somewhat remarkable, for Poe is a key
figure in the development of DGR's literary style as well. The
second-order romanticism developed
in Poe's imaginative writings, and explicated in
essays like “The Poetic Principle” and “The Philosophy of Composition”, is recapitulated in
DGR's work, where the key is primarily Dantean rather than (as in Poe)
DGR also made illustrations for two other Poe works, The Sleeper and Ulalume.
The earliest of these illustrations was
executed in June 1846, a pen and brown ink
sketch done in DGR's earlier chiaroscuro style. The three other
drawings are all later and in a very different style (ca.1848).
The illustrations are keyed to several passages
of Poe's poem, but each drawing is an effort to
render the central conception of the poem in general, as
DGR read it. The haunting is therefore, in DGR's version, not simply
through the spirit of Lenore, but through the imaginative construction
of that spirit: hence the presence, in DGR's drawings (but not in Poe's
poem) of the “portrait” of Lenore on the wall.
DGR's annotated copy of Poe's
The Raven and Other Poems
(1846) is in the Troxell Collection, Princeton University Library.