October 29, 2011

Writers Who Were Artists

In the last week, I came across articles on Tolkien's art for The Hobbit (above) and Sylvia Plath's ink drawings (below).

There is a deep connection between writing and visual art, just as there is between music and math. Here are some other writers who were artists:

Wyndham Lewis - Lewis, like Dante Gabriel Rossetti (see below), was perhaps better known for his painting than his writing. That's Ezra Pound in the painting above.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Rossetti's poetry has fared less well over time than his paintings.

D. H. Lawrence - Toward the end of his life, Lawrence started doing oil paintings.

Mervyn Peake - Peake, the author of the Gormenghast novels, was a wonderful illustrator. Above is an illustration for The Ancient Mariner.

Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) - Dinesen trained as an artist. Her beautiful paintings have been used on the covers of several of her books.

William Blake - Blake's prints are hugely influential. More than any other writer, his art and writing are deeply entwined.

Kurt Vonnegut - Breakfast of Champions is full of Vonnegut's lively drawings. He developed an interest in silkscreen printing, samples of which may be seen here. Note the flavicon! 

Rudyard Kipling - Kipling's father was an artist, and Kipling did the illustrations for Just So Stories (Wikipedia says they're woodcuts, but they look like ink drawings to me).

William Makepeace Thackeray trained as an artist. His illustrations for Vanity Fair are wonderful. 

Bruce Chatwin - Chatwin's astonishing photographs may be seen in Photographs and Notebooks, as well as on the covers of several of his books. 

Hans Christian Andersen - Andersen made delightful paper cut-outs with which he entertained children and adults while telling his stories. 

I can't find any examples online, but Lawrence Durrell did wonderful watercolors, reminiscent of Raoul Dufy. Annie Dillard studied art (the handsome little shrub on the frontispiece of Teaching a Stone to Talk is hers). John Updike attended art school before he switched to writing.


  1. What a wonderful collection of artist/writers. I love it!

  2. Gorgeous.

    Now please give us "Actors Who Can Sing."

  3. An intriguing peek at the multi-talented.

    You forgot Lewis Caroll/Charles Dodgson - whose photography is always compelling:http://byricardomarcenaroi.blogspot.com/2011/06/photos-fotos-lewis-carroll-part-1-bio.html

    I recently viewed an exhibit of Jack London's photography - surprising stuff:http://www.ronslate.com/jack_london_photographer_jeanne_campbell_reesman_sara_s_hodson_and_philip_adam_university_georgia_pr

  4. A helpful and nicely argued blog suggesting that the effort to express through different media - prose and visual arts - can be enhancing to efforts in both. Tks, EMR