Artist Bill Bragg on illustrating Trollope
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.