Bench commemorating Arthur Rackham

Posted on 5/3/2020

Friends of Belsize Library are seeking funds from Belsize ward’s Community Infrastructure Levy allocation for a bench commemorating the life and works of Arthur Rackham.
Born on 19 September 1867, English illustrator Arthur Rackham was recognised as one of the leading literary figures during the Golden Age of British book illustration. Famous for drawing sensitive and scary images of fantastical woodland creatures and enchanted trees, Rackham’s influence continues to this day with Director Guilermo Del Toro and Brian Froud, illustrator for the recent Dark Crystal series on Netflix, citing him as a big inspiration on their own work.
From 1906 Rackham and his family lived in Primrose Hill Studios (near Fitzroy Road) and Chalcot Gardens, spending 15 years in the area. With the recent celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth, Myra Newman, a member of the Friends of Belsize Library and a fan of Rackham’s work, decided to commemorate it with some local community-led activities.
‘’I went to the British library and they weren’t doing anything, so, inspired by his wonderful illustrations, we decided to have a tea party at the Gallery in Chalcot Road and Belsize Community Library with members of Kilburn Older Voices Exchange and a group of young people from Elfrida Rathbone. The Mayor of Camden Richard Cotton even attended as the master of ceremonies, dressed as the Mad Hatter.’’
Following the success of the events and sensing a general lack of recognition for the influential artist’s anniversary, Primrose Hill Neighbour’s Help and the Friends of Belsize Library decided to apply to Camden Council for funding for benches to be placed outside the libraries close to where he lived.
Myra is now working with Martin Grierson & Georgy Metchian of the Art Workers’ Guild, of which Rackham himself was a Master, as well as Graham Wade, a local illustrator and designer working for local charity Queens Crescent Community Association, to raise funds for the erection of a bench. The group is currently looking at finding more sources of potential funding and sponsors for the project.
Wade explained the group’s enthusiasm for the project: “As someone with a keen interest in illustration, I think it would be fantastic to recognise Rackham’s beautiful and influential work while also providing Belsize Library and Primrose Hill Library with a wonderful, practical piece of art that people of all ages can enjoy”.
If you are interested in learning more about the project or would like to suggest potential sources of funding, please email to: arackhambench@gmail.com.