Thursday 7 April 2016

'Sir Gawain & The Green Knight' in Pictures

Christmas at Camelot, screenprint by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Penfold Press 2015
I'm eagerly awaiting the second print in Clive Hicks-Jenkins's series of fourteen devoted to the adventures of Sir Gawain and his nemesis, the Green Knight. I've seen various preparatory drawings and proofs, and the finished print of 'The Green Knight Arrives' promises to be stunning. Watch this space.

The story has inspired numerous illustrators over the centuries, from the anonymous artist whose work adorns the original manuscript to Diana Sudyka, whose illustrations accompany Simon Armitage's translation of the text in a 2008 Folio Society edition.

Illustration of Green Knight's arrival by Anning Bell, 1913
The big difference between most of the pictures shown here and Clive's project is that these are book illustrations, whereas Clive is producing a series of free-standing prints inspired by, but not directly connected to the text. Not that there is anything wrong with the book illustrations, some of which are dazzling.

Green Knight's arrival, by Juan Wijngaard, 1981
The very first (extant) edition of the poem, which is held in manuscript form in the British Library, was illustrated by an unknown artist in the 14th century. The grisly scene of the Green Knight speaking via his decapitated head is particularly striking - note the expressions of (medieval) bewilderment on the faces of Arthur and his retinue - OMG! #headisoff!

Green Knight continues speaking, despite losing head, Illustration from original manuscript, C14

The same scene illustrated by Diana Sudyka for the Folio Society, 2008

Gawain approaches Sir Bertilak's castle, Cyril Satorsky, Ltd Editions Club, 1971

Watch out Gawain! Sir Bertilak's wife, by Diana Sudyka

Gawain at the Green Chapel, Lego-style, by Josh Wedin 2007

Yikes! The Green Knight by Des Hanley, 2000s

The moment of truth for Gawain, Dorothea Braby, Golden Cockerel Press 1952

There's a whole world of other Gawain-related imagery out there - if anyone wants to share any please comment below. I'll post an image of Clive's new piece as soon as it's published. Meanwhile, for an interesting take on Gawain style, check this out.


E Berris said...

The poem (one of my favourite texts at college) really inspires artists, but the Lego with its intensity of green is so unexpected. It sent me to check the text (for mist and ice and louring weather), but find that Gawain describes the place as an "utter desert", "desolation" and "a sinister shrine ". Very thought provoking. thank you.

James Russell said...

Belatedly, thankyou!

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