Illustration from Sartor Resartus
E. J. Sullivan was one of the most important illustrators working in the 1890s, the 1900s, and through into the 1920s. He grew up in Hastings, being taught drawing by his father Michael Sullivan, an art teacher. He came to London to work for the new Daily Graphic, which appeared for the first time in 1890. Subsequently, he worked on various magazines including the English Illustrated Magazine and The Pall Mall Budget, where he met Frances Louise Williams, whom he later married.
Sullivan illustrated upwards of 20 books, most notably Lavengro, a Tom Brown's Schooldays, The Compleat Angler, all in 1896, a much-admired Sartor Resartus by Carlyle in 1898, Tennyson's A Dream of Fair Women in 1900, and a two volume Pilgrim's Progress in 1901. Of his later work, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1913) is the most impressive. He also wrote two books on illustration in the 1920s.
Apart from illustration, Sullivan was a watercolourist, etcher and teacher. He became RWS in 1928, RE in 1931 and was President of the Art Workers' Guild.
Sullivan was influenced by the work of G. F. Watts and by Durer, as is clear from his Sartor Resartus drawings. He cultivated a free style of penmanship, combined with a liking for detail - in fabrics, leaves, flourishes, beards and especially hands. Sometimes his work seems to be too scribbley, with a loss of overall impact, and he also had a tendancy to overdo whimsy where it was not required. However, in general his illustrations show consistently good draughtsmanship, are imaginative, and show a wide use of drawing techniques to achieve subtle effects. Some of his works are akin to those of Beardsley in their use of white space and decoration, while others are closer to the richly detailed society illustrations of G. A. Storey, or, with flowers and organic shapes, have a hint of art nouveau. His illustrations were much imitated, and Sullivan may be said to have helped to define the drawing style of the early 20th Century.
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Illustration // Other artists