Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tom Phillips' Dante

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a very interesting bunch of illustrations in a book about dante's divine comedy showing an overview of 6 centuries of published illustrations.
Most of them are more or less representing a classical illustration style.
You get an (often) very detailed view of heaven and hell as described within the text, you'll find angles in heaven, firegraves, devils and other monsters in hell and a lot of torture of course.

Gustave Dorés visions are a kind of good example of that style. You can really imagine all the things happening in the book, but actually, do you really need the text then, after all?

I always saw this problem of redundancy in classical book illustrations and often wonder how to deal in a more conceptual way with that. In the case of the divine comedy it's even worse since the text itself is quite illustrative and actually doesn't need any illustration aside.

In contrast to that, the work of Tom Phillips shows in a wonderful way how this problem can be solved, how you can do illustrations, giving the text a totally new perspective, drawing analogies to far away subjects and open up a new horizon.

This illustration deals with the moment, when Beatrice's soul (shown here in form of a butterfly) descends to help Dante and send him to his journey through heven and hell at the very beginning of the divine comedy. The text aside is not taken from the book itself, but from another novel, that he used as well for another work, "humument" , creating a new book by overdrawing this found novel "A human nature".

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