This brief history of illustration is not intended to be an academic vision of the illustration. It is a subjective approach to the discipline and a medium to show some of the most important illustrators of all times. We will be jumping from East to West, from Britain to America.
It is ordered in five parts. This is the first one.
This first part goes since the beggining in the caves to 1900.
The first illustrations were made in a cave (well, maybe it was in a tree, but we do not have samples right now). Have you ever seen the bulls of the Lascaux caves? Or the hands printed on the walls in red? These are the first samples of a whole new art.
Greece and Rome developed extended forms of art, even in some sorts of erotic graffiti, as you can see at Pompeii (specially at the entrance of the brothels).
The second step in the history are the Woodblock Printing (200 AD), an extended technique in the East of Asia.
Before 15th Century, books were hand illustrated. Some notable examples in this period (476 AD- 1492 AD) are the mediÃ¦val illustrations accompaning the manuscripts. Books were made working over coat or cow leather and using the “illumination” technique, decorated with thin layers of gold to illuminate the illustrations.
And suddenly in the year 1430 appears the Intaglio Printing, which it used cooper or zinc as the medium for printing.
In the year 1439 began the reign of the Woodcut Illustrations, because itÂ came to life the Gutenbergâ€™s Printing Press (First Book: The Bible).
During 16th and 17th Century was extended the use of the Etching and engraving techniques.
At the end of the 18th century appears the Lithography (1796) and in the next century was enhanced by the chromolithography (1837).
In the 19th century â€œâ€¦ the medium moved away from steel engraving which was the standard in the early century towards wood-engraving which could more easily be incorporated into pages of text. Book and journal publishers would employ workshops of wood-engravers to render artists’ drawings onto polished blocks of fine-grained yew or box-wood which could then be locked directly into the printing-chase with the metal type.â€ (Wikipedia.org: Illustration).
If you think in 19th century, think in HonorÃ© Daumier.
Daumier is my favorite illustrator of the first fifty years of 19th century. He used a lot of techniques: lithography, xilography and when he was going blind he began to paint. He illustrated magazines like â€œLa Silhouetteâ€ and â€œLa Caricatureâ€.
The magazines will be the main scenario to publish for the illustrators of this century and the first fifty years of the 20th century. Well, there was a big place for the books too.Â If you want some reading about it, click here.
And finally (for this chapter) we have a new technique in print: the Rotary Press. We are in the year 1843 and the world is ready to receive a huge amount of artist and illustrators. And the new techniques allowed the use of colors and shades.
Some information to have in mind for the second half of the 19th century:
1.- The Industrial Revolution.
2.- The declining of the Censorship Laws in France (Daumier had to stop his political caricatures because of them).
3.- The massive migration of artist that developed the Social Realism (known as Realism too) to England.
4.- The influences of Pre-Rafaelite Brotherhood, Arts and Crafts Movement, Sthetic Movement , The Art Noveau, Les Nabis, the Impressionism and the Post-Impressionism.
In this period was the Golden Age of the Victorian Illustration (UK) and it began the Golden Age of the American Illustration.
Here are some of the illustrators of the last decades of 19th century:
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley:
Paul Christophe Gustave Dore:
George Du Marier:
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec:
Phil May (The Father of the British Illustration):
If you want to read more about the history of Print:
If you want to read a brief dictionary of artistic movements:
Excuse my english ;)