Artist Bill Bragg on illustrating Trollope

Bill Bragg, illustrator of the Folio Society’s new editions of The Warden and Barchester Towers, talks about depicting Trollope’s ingenious characterisations.

Bill Bragg illustration in The Folio edition of The Warden

One of Braggs’s illustrations in The Folio edition of The Warden

Everything in Trollope’s writing is incredibly clearly drawn. Here lies the challenge as an illustrator: how to add to something which is already so clearly delineated in the imagination by the writer. Trollope has of course been illustrated by a number of artists before, most notably John Everett Millais, who collaborated with him on six of the original editions, and much later Edward Ardizzone, in the 1950s.

Millais’s etchings are wonderfully expressive and offer further insight into the psychological state of the characters through his remarkable talent for gesture and his varied and elegant use of composition. In fact Trollope himself said that Millais’s drawings were so close to his own ideas that they even helped him to remember who the characters were from book to book. Ardizzone’s beautiful vignettes perfectly complement Trollope’s writing with their inimitable light and warmth and, in The Warden, so perfectly capture the feeling of summer in the small cathedral city of Barchester.

In contrast to Ardizzone’s style, my illustrations tend to be much darker in tone, often with the detail dropped entirely out of the shadow areas to create a sense of mystery and drama. This way of working complements certain writing styles, for example, the series of Kafka novels I previously illustrated for The Folio Society. However, with Trollope’s writing being so much more explicit and character-driven, I found that I needed to adapt the way that I work by revealing much more detail and paying closer attention to characterisation. My hope is that through this change of emphasis I have been able to give the reader a deeper sense of who the characters are and the world that they inhabit. Whether I have achieved this is not for me to say, but I have certainly relished the challenge and very much hope you enjoy the result.

Discover more of Bragg ’s illustrations and explore our edition of The Warden and Barchester Towers.

The 2014 Folio edition of The Warden

The 2014 Folio edition of The Warden

The 2014 Folio edition of Barchester Towers

The 2014 Folio edition of Barchester Towers

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