The details: “Quoth the raven”

"Open here I flung the shutter"

“Open here I flung the shutter”

Here is a delightful intersection of poetry and art: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” illustrated by Gustav Doré. Twenty-odd etchings illustrate the 18-stanza poem.

I learned about Doré’s illustrations of “The Raven” about a year ago, at an exhibit of illustrations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe at the Brandywine River Museum. Even though I’m not the biggest Poe fan, it was a fascinating collection. The artwork brought out the real creepiness of Poe’s stories. (And then there were the steampunk Poe illustrations…somehow fitting.)

The illustration accompanies this stanza:

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.

I like how the spectral bodies could almost be part of the building architecture. The figure in the bottom-left corner, with the slightly open mouth, has this look of melancholy regret—she almost looks with longing at the narrator in the window.

The image has very much the quality of an etching. I also found the below image, which looks more like a sketch or drawing. I know just about nothing regarding the provenance of artwork, so I haven’t a clue if this is a drawing from which the etch was made or what. It brings a slightly different emphasis to some of the features of the illustration.


Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Edmund C. Stedman, in his “Comment on the Poem,” notes that “The Raven” illustrations were Doré’s last works. Stedman offers this assessment:

As a “literary artist,” and such [Doré] was, his force was in direct ratio with the dramatic invention of his author, with the brave audacities of the spirit that kindled his own…He was a born master of the grotesque, and by a special insight could portray the spectres of a haunted brain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *