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Book illustration - The professor can't stand that sort of thing
  • The professor can't stand that sort of thing
    Rackham, Arthur, born 1867 - died 1939
  • Enlarge image

The professor can't stand that sort of thing

  • Object:

    Book illustration

  • Place of origin:

    Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1932 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rackham, Arthur, born 1867 - died 1939 (illustrator)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink and watercolour on paper, mounted on card

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case EDUC, shelf 1

The style of this illustration reveals Arthur Rackham's background as a caricature artist. It was made for Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, published in 1932. Nicknamed the 'beloved enchanter', Rackham was the leading British illustrator of the early 20th century. He is best known for his illustrations to fables and fairytales, featuring gnomes, fairies, ogres and trees with human characteristics. He combined sometimes disturbing settings with humour to make his images loved by children and adults alike.

Rackham began his career drawing caricatures in black and white for magazines like the Pall Mall Budget and Punch. His career really took off, though, when he turned to fantasy illustration in 1898 and began to work in colour. These illustrations were published as gift-books until the 1920s. He continued to caricature live models even in his fantastical work, and sometimes included portraits of himself. He said that whether or not an artist believed in the world of fairies, he 'must make it as real as if he did'. Even the furniture and crockery for the Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice in Wonderland (1907) were modelled on his own. Rackham continued to illustrate books into the 1930s. His last work, fulfilling a longstanding wish, was in 1936 for The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Physical description

Caricature of a professor in frock coat and top hat talking to two thistles. He holds an open book and carries a green satchel-bag over his shoulders. The thistles have human features. One has a pink head; the other is green-leafed and holding a top hat. The image is coloured but the grass is black.

Place of Origin

Britain (made)


1932 (made)


Rackham, Arthur, born 1867 - died 1939 (illustrator)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink and watercolour on paper, mounted on card

Marks and inscriptions

1) Signature; bottom left below image; pencil

(cut off note unconnected with illustration)
back of mount; hand-written; pencil


Height: 22 cm, Width: 26.5 cm

Descriptive line

Book illustration to Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, drawing to illustrate 'Little Ida's Flowers' on page 18, by Arthur Rachham, in pen and ink and watercolour, 1932.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Andersen, Hans Christian. Fairy Tales. London, George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1932.
The Works of Arthur Rackham. London, Leicester Galleries.


Paper; Cardboard; Pen and ink and watercolour


Painted; Hand-drawn

Subjects depicted

Professors; Thistles; Books; Bags; Caricatures; Satire


Illustration; Caricatures & Cartoons; Children & Childhood


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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