|Beggarstaff Brothers (William Nicholson & James Pryde), Don Quixote, 1895|
This unlikely co-existence of different perspectives makes the illustrator's job particularly tricky. The book may abound in visually striking incidents - jousting at windmills being perhaps the most famous - but how do you communicate in a picture the layer of reading experience in which the old man's warped vision of reality is noble and true? In fact many artists have responded to the text by presenting Don Quixote as the knight he imagines himself to be; I had a picture of the Beggarstaffs poster when I was young and it gave me the (offputting) impression that this business of knights and windmills was rather solemn.
On the other hand, some of the 17th/18th century illustrations are too obviously comic. The old man's journey is one that takes him through physical hardship, many beatings, near starvation and humiliation. His refusal to give up his noble quest is noble, even though his actions are ridiculous.
|Don Quixote reading, Adolf Schwedt, C19|
|Gustave Dore, Don Quixote Reading, 1868|
|Svetlin Vassilev, Don Quixote Reading, 2003|
|Honore Daumier, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, 1870, Courtauld|
|Angelo Agostini, Don Quixote (magazine cover), 1880s|
|Pablo Picasso, Don Quixote, 1955|
|Edward Hopper, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, 1899|
|Gustave Dore, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, 1868|
|Svetlin Vassilev, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza, 2003|
|Charles-Antoine Coypel, Don Quixote Fighting the Wineskins, early C18|
|Roc Riera Rojas, Don Quixote Jousting Windmills, 1968|
|Gustave Dore, Don Quixote Jousting Windmills, 1868|
|Print after Coypel, Don Quixote at the Enchanted Inn, early C18|
|Roc Riera Rojas, Sancho Panza tossed in a blanket, 1968|
|Gustave Dore, Don Quixote charging sheep, 1868|
In the end I think Gustave Dore remains the one to beat: his vision of 'Don Quixote' is deranged, serious, noble and absurd, all at the same time. I imagine his illustrations will be included in the British Library's exhibition devoted to the subject, which is scheduled to open soon.
Having said that, I really like the work of Svetlin Vassilev, who is Bulgarian and lives in Greece. More about him here.