Review: 101 Great Illustrators From the Golden Age (1890-1925) by Jeff Menges

Rating: 5 stars

Click Here to Buy it on Amazon

When I ordered this book online a couple weeks ago, I had an idea of what to expect, since I had seen other reviews praising it, and have heard about it from other people who enjoyed it immensely. What I was not prepared for was how absolutely breathtaking it actually is.

It was around breakfast time when I found it on my front porch, and, unable to wait much longer, I opened it with the intention of just taking a brief peek at it while saving a more in-depth look for after I already ate. I thought that was just what I did, but one look at the clock and I was stunned to find I had been poring through this rich treasure trove for the better part of twenty minutes.

Time flies when you're having fun, and this book (plus others like it) is definitely among the things I consider fun.

There are two main things I found to be of the greatest value in this book: namely visual value and informational value.

Visual: Let me just say that, if you're going to write a book about art, you have to include at least some of the art you're writing about. Mr Menges definitely goes above and beyond in this area, as every page contains a rich spread of graphics and illustration art. Here are a couple examples of what I'm talking about:

You can clearly see that this book doesn't disappoint in this area at all. It does the exact opposite.

Informational: This is one area that I think carries much more weight than visual value, because there are so many interesting tidbits that, unless you are as big an expert as the author, you'll find yourself learning new things all the time. And while visual appeal can wear off after a while, informational value has the power to enrich a curious mind--and that's something that stays with you for life!

As a testament to the informational value contained in this book, I've known about the golden age of illustration since I was fifteen years old, but was first introduced to it through John R. Neill's Oz illustrations as a thirteen year old. Collectively, that equals seventeen years of my life I've spent delving into this topic, and yet, even now, this book could still teach me things I never knew before.

A perfect example of this is German illustrator Heinrich Kley. During the twenty minutes I spent senselessly losing myself in this book, I discovered him and his work, and was amazed to find that he was a tremendous influence on Walt Disney's early animation work. As a child, I grew up with movies such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and The Sword in the Stone, so I found it very gratifying to discover one of the key figures behind these classic films.

To sum it all up, although this book is not cheap (it cost me $30) it is definitely worth every penny. And if you are a Golden Age aficionado like myself, you would be doing yourself a tremendous service picking this book up today.

To end it, I'd like to briefly mention Mr Menges' website. I found his work and his unique perspective to be very inspiring, and his example could lead to exciting new creative avenues for Dominion Graphic Arts in the somewhat distant future. (hint, hint). People like him are a guiding light for the rest of us, and I'm grateful for their presence in this world.

Disclaimer: I do not earn commissions on sales of books I review at this time. This may change in future, but it will never affect the integrity of my reviews.



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