CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2005
The Lady of Shalott is the third book in the “Visions in Poetry” series of classic poems illustrated by contemporary artists. The first book in the series was Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll (2004), and the illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch were recognized with the Governor General's Literary Award for Illustration.
The poem, “The Lady of Shalott,” is thought to be based on Elaine, the maiden who was in love with Sir Lancelot of Arthurian legend. But Lancelot only admired Queen Guinevere so Elaine locked herself in a tower on the island of Shalott and died of a broken heart.
The poem was first published in 1832 and was revised for Tennyson's 1842 edition of Poems. It is considered one of the most mysterious and haunting poems in the English language and has inspired many works of art, particularly those by the Pre-Raphaelites.
Côté has remained true to the romantic imagery of the poem with her use flowing lines and attenuated body and facial features. Like the imagery of Marc Chagall, figures magically float through the air. Her colour choices of soft blues, greens, golds and burnt siennas perfectly match the melancholic tone of the poem. But Côté creates a visual metaphor of the Lady as a chrysalis like figure who metamorphoses into a butterfly upon breaking free of the tower. This interpretation of the meaning of the poem is a commentary on the place of women in Victorian society when they were bound by the constraints of domesticity and rigid social conventions.
Like the other books in the series, this edition is beautifully packaged with gold title stamping on the black cloth spine, a vellum overlaid title page and two choices of elegant type face - Celeste and Dorchester Script. This is another handsome addition to the series which would be of interest to literature students, art classes and students of book design.
Lorraine Douglas is an artist and writer living in Sidney, BC.
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