Sunday, June 26, 2011

Drawing on the Past #3: ARTHUR I. KELLER

Work: The Woman in the Alcove by Anna Katharine Green (Bobbs Merrill, 1906)

Artist: Arthur I. Keller (1866 - 1924)

Keller trained as an artist at the National Academy of Design in his teens and later went to Germany to study under Ludwig von Loeffiz at the Munich Academy of Art. The Romantic style inherent in that academy's teaching would stay with Keller throughout his career. He tried to make it as a painter but succumbed to the attention he gained as a illustrator and completely abandoned the studio by the early 1900s.  His work can be found in the books of popular and bestselling authors of the early 20th century, a few of which were George Barr McCutcheon, Robert W. Chambers, John P. Marquand and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Vintage book lovers may know that he did the drawings for some interesting collectible American books:  the first edition of The Virginian by Owen Wister (Macmillan, 1902),  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Bobbs Merrill, 1906)A Christmas Carol (David McKay, 1914) and the first US edition of The Valley of Fear by Doyle (George H. Doran, 1914).

For more information on Arthur I. Keller visit this American Art Archives page. While there you can also see several beautiful examples of Keller's work in color. He was a master at not only capturing action scenes, but in color composition. I have a copy of The Valley of Fear which includes some of his finest work, however the plates are foxed and would make poor scans for your viewing here.


  1. I wonder if we will ever get artwork of this caliber again.

  2. I love that one with the boat. It's dark...but it still captures the scene so well. Re: pattinase's comment...somehow I don't think so.

  3. Until we get influential young people who are interested in the past and who appreciate this kind of art I doubt we will ever have dramatic or romantic imagery like this ever again. And the art world doesn't like to look backward - they're always looking for new and innovative. Old-fashioned doesn't cut it. The "graphic novel school" seems to be the new art style - everything in art seems to be influenced by comic books, Japanese manga, and similar drawing and illustrative techniques.