Sunday, August 28, 2011

Influence & Inspiration: John Bauer

I'm not very good at remembering names. When someone introduces themselves to me, I'll probably forget their names before it's even my turn to introduce myself. That can be very awkward for time to time. You know, this forgetfulness happens especially when it comes to remembering artist names.

There was one artist whose name I didn't know, yet his artwork had penetrated in to my mind when I was just a kid. I remember reading this book of Swedish folk lores with my big sister when we were visiting our relatives in Sweden. I think I was around 6 or 7-years-old back then. Anyways, that book had very powerful illustrations about trolls, elves, kings and such, the kind that really made the fairy tales come to life and fed the young imagination.

What made the images very special for me was both the distressing and fascinating feeling I got from them. To tell you the truth, that feeling didn't help me to get sleep when we were reading the book just before the bedtime.

Few years ago I was looking for inspiration for my projects and I started to remember pieces from that book I had run into on our visit to Sweden. I had never come to find out who had drawn those pieces of art so it was time for me to do some googling. All I knew was that the book was about Swedish folk lores, though I knew what the pictures looked like (thank god I'm not that forgetful when it comes to images...) so it didn't take that much time to find out who was behind those wonderful images from my childhood. The name was John Bauer.

Here a small collection of Mr. Bauer's work...

I still get the same feeling that I felt the first time I laid my eyes on these images.

John Bauer uses contrast in very interesting way, especially when it comes to characters; There are innocent young children standing alongside dark and twisted trolls and giants. Colours and milieu underline the tension, everything is framed by an ancient nordic forest full of long tree trunks and mossed stones. If you ask me, his works would work very well along with the tales by brothers Grimm...

Nowadays, when I wander the wilderness there's no gap between stones that I couldn't image being a small lair of a pixie or wind-felled tree's rhizome that couldn't be a hairy troll shuffling between the trees.


  1. saw the first of his works on postcards here in the uk - hippy era - always thought he had a big influence on bonner .....

  2. Very nice post, as usual :) I saw a book from an old german illustrator at a flea-market today: Klaus Ensikat. He's not a fantasy illustrator in general but I like his style, being quite old-school. Some of my own work (hennirocks) is influenced by him. Or at least, I would love it to be ;)

  3. J.B.: There truly can be drawn some lines between Bauer and Bonner. Now to come thinking, John Bauer's style has quite strong references to Arthur Rackham's style. Coincidence or just pure matter of materials and techniques used?

  4. Thanks Bas! Checked hennirocks and it, well, rocks! Swell graphics indeed, like your style very much. Got to dig more deep when I've some more time, just scratched the surface.

  5. yup rackhams there - but as well neilson, dulac, bull, clarke, beardsly and earlier mucha, rossitti, burne jones etc