An introduction to the illustrations to T.H.White's 'The Goshawk'

I first read T.H.White's 'The Goshawk‘ in the Penguin Books Modern Classics series during 1968.  The story is of the clash of wills between a determined but inexperienced falconer, and a wild and fierce Goshawk which he attempts to train. Austere and intensely moving, it is of the struggles between man and bird, set in the countryside of England, in what I imagined to be the depression years of the 1930s.

  The illustrations were done on cartridge paper, with airbrushed dyes and inks, and other materials, which unfortunately, unknown to myself at the time, were subject to fading when exposed to daylight. In 1968 I had moved away from abstract painting to tentatively explore landscape and figurative subjects in my paintings. The Goshawk series was an exploration, in ways of depicting such subject material in a graphic way. Hence the very varied range of approaches to each of the illustrations, as well as the techniques used across the series of illustrations.

  I left London in early 1969 to live in Suffolk and to begin a new start in life. A few of the illustrations were shown to London publishers that year in a bid to attract interest. After that period I became more involved in other projects, the illustrations were abandoned and stored for decades; perhaps twelve or so survived until recent times.

  In 2014 the Royal Cambrian Academy hosted an exhibition, on members book illustrations. I decided to include the illustration, 'Returning to the Glove' from the series. During the summer of 2016 some of the illustrations were repaired and restored by me, some were hand copied as the originals had suffered mould damage, and by the end of the year I had nine finished. They have now been copied by the National Library of Wales so that durable facsimiles can be made available to replace the much more fragile originals, which could not be used for display.

©2019 Malcolm Ryan

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