Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gustav Tenggren's Jack and the Beanstalk, 1953

This was probably my favorite picture book as a child. Without understanding why, I was fascinated by Tenngren's color palette. Looking at these illustrations as an adult, I'm in awe how daring he was in some of his color combinations -- placing ruddy reds directly on top of sickly greens and blues, for example, resulted in a darker vision of a story that is usually portrayed much more straightforward manner.
Notice Jack's mother's elegant hand gesture.
This menacing sky is achieved with three quick, simple sweeps of a broad brush.
In most Jack and the Beanstalk stories, the giant's kingdom that is simply nestled in the clouds somehow. This is a darker approach -- the landscape is strange and contrasts with the pleasant land below.
In Tenggren's version, the giant's wife is a compassionate, friendly character, who lives in fear of her husband.
The giant himself was truly menacing. If he said he was going to grind someone's bones to make his bread, he probably meant it.
This illustration also served as the cover for this Little Golden Book (original cost: 25 cents).
Here the giant's wife scolds Jack for making off with their gold -- but she was so kind and lonely for good company she forgave him and fed him an apple tart...
...and furthermore hid him from her husband.
Note the violet framing device subtly suggests three point perspective.
Jack and his mother enjoying the benefits of magic beans. I wonder where this left the poor suffering, widowed Mrs. Giant?

1 comment:

Will Finn said...

Nice scans! Loved this book as a kid too. Given the print specs of the day, it is likely the originals are even more saturated.

Some of these 2-page spreads would have made amazing murals.