Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Drawn to Order: British Illustration since 1800
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 2 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  Essay 2,000 words + annotated images  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Examination  2 questions in 2 hours  50%
Supplementary Assessment Supplementary Assessment  Essay 2,000 words + annotated images  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Supplementary Examination  2 questions in 2 hours  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

demonstrate a critical understanding of the technical, socio-historical and art historical contexts of the illustrators and their work;

explain the function of illustration and the role of the illustrator, book designer and typographer over time;

evaluate ways in which illustrators have interpreted texts and drawn for the different print media used in book production;

identify period styles and historic print media, demonstrating an understanding and sure handling of technical terminology.

Brief description

Pictures that tell stories have for centuries been the mainstay of the European figurative tradition. This module examines the illustrated book in Britain since 1800 through an analysis of the work of key illustrators. It considers books in relation to their social, historical, art historical and technological contexts. The relationship between image, text and methods of production will also be discussed. The module follows a broadly chronological framework beginning with Thomas Bewick's refinement of the wood engraving that, together with rapid technological developments and increased literacy, saw the physical appearance of the illustrated book change as production grew from a handcraft into an industry. Cheap books immediately opened up access to fine prints for all and, as conveyors of information, these were of great significance in public self-education.
By the 1860s, established easel painters such as Millais, Burne Jones, Hunt, Leighton and Sandys were illustrating for inexpensive wide-circulation periodicals. Their pious scenes of family life, unrequited love, deathbed melodramas and idealized visions of medieval chivalry tell us much about the codes, conduct and aspirations of middle-class Victorians. Opposed to such mechanization and mass production, William Morris established the Kelmscott Press in 1891 to hand print books like medieval craftsmen and prove that 'a work of utility might also be a work of art'. The twentieth-century private presses such as Golden Cockerel and Gregynog were a legacy of Morris,s ideology. The propriety of Kelmscott books found their antithesis, however, in the erotic and often scandalous illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley. Richly patterned, elaborate in their artificiality and steeped in the frustrations of male sexual desire, they sum up Fin de Siecle decadence.
With the British Empire at its height, London became a magnet for international artists who came to work for the great publishing houses. Frenchman Edmund Dulac and Kay Neilson from Denmark joined indigenous talent such as Beatrix Potter and Arthur Rackham whose bizarre anthropomorphized tree roots and absurd-looking gnomes would influence generations of illustrators from Walt Disney to Chris Riddell. Potter and Rackham were the first illustrators to see their watercolours photographed and reproduced by means of the new colour halftone process that has for over a century has remained the principal means of printing illustrated books. The closing decades of the twentieth century witnessed the increasing internationalization of the illustrated book market. The likes of Charles Keeping, Maurice Sendak and Chris Riddell demonstrate the continuing importance of book illustration, its potential to entertain, provoke thought and delight.


This module examines the nature and role of illustration in British books and periodicals since 1800, considering the relationship between image, text and process. There will be opportunities to handle rare private and commercial press books in the National Library of Wales and the School of Art collections. [This module is especially useful to fine art students who will be specializing in book illustration.]


  1. Approaching the Study of Illustration. Module overview and assessments explained. Illustration in Britain before 1800.
  2. Thomas Bewick and the Commercial Illustrated Book.
  3. The Golden Age of British Book Illustration: The 1860s.
  4. The Victorian Soap: Illustrations for Periodicals of the 1860s.
  5. The Refinement of Colour: from Colour Wood Engraving to Halftone.
  6. Fin de Siècle I: Aubrey Beardsley and the Art Nouveau Book.
  7. Fin de Siècle II: William Morris and Private Press Historicism.
  8. British Private Presses from the Vale to Golden Cockerel, 1890-1940.
  9. Hands On: a feast of rare books at the National Library of Wales gathered together in your honour (2 hours).
  10. From Boxwood and Zinc Plate to Cellulose: Commercial Illustrated Books 1920-1950.
  11. Continuity and New Departures: Illustration since 1950.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Articulating ideas through seminar discussions and presentations, as well as academic writing skills in the essay.
Improving own Learning and Performance Independent study through seminar assignment research and preparation. Management of time.
Information Technology Information retrieval from various academic research portals and online museum/library collection databases.
Personal Development and Career planning Emphasis on professional presentation of research and annotated bibliography using MLA style documentation.
Problem solving Creative thinking. Analysis and interpretation of illustrated
Research skills Academic research and writing skills. Image sourcing.
Subject Specific Skills Grounding in the materials used and techniques employed in the production of illustrated books. Handling of rare books.
Team work Seminar group discussion and presentation.


This module is at CQFW Level 6