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Gustave Doré

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Another artist mentioned in ''Pickman's Model'':


''There’s something those fellows catch—beyond life—that they’re able to make us catch for a second. Doré had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it. And Pickman had it as no man ever had it before or—I hope to heaven—ever will again.''


Doré was a prolific artist. I have a particular fondness for his engravings, many of which capture the grotesque contortion of form and maddening perspective of Lovecraft's horrors.


He published a series of 241 for La Grande Bible de Tours



Of particular interest to me (all taken from the canonical Old Testament) are 6. 7. 10, 35, 37, 43, 44, 46, 48, 50, 57, 58, 59, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68, 74, 80, 83, 86, 90, 92, 95, 96, 99, 100-6,  109, 110, 123, 129, 134.


The viciousness of so many of these scenes confirms, to my mind, the Old Testament as the myths and legends of a primitive often downtrodden people who behave like animals and savages because they, and we, are animals and the only ''principle'' in the Universe is a blind struggle for survival. Men devise gods once they realise that imitative magic plain and simple fails, but they are merely inventions of Man (if I cannot control the Universe, he thinks, there must be more powerful beings that can and upon whose side I ought for my own benefit to be) and ways of getting what he wants, in fact, invented for that very purpose.  They seem quite alien to the sweetened (and yet essentially craven and self-serving) nonsense that is taught as Christianity. I find something intensely distasteful about the grovelling of Oriental religions.


His illustrations for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner catch something of the horror of the frozen seas, and the rotting seas swarming with strange and foul creatures:




The squalor of ''London, A Pilgrimage'' is very striking. For me strong memories and impressions of Red Hook -- sin-pocked blear-eyed faces hiding multifarious and unknown evils in a warren of filth.




He also very effectively illustrated Poe's Raven.

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You forgot to mention his Paradise Lost illustrations, which Lovecraft considered the subconscious inspiration for his dreams of night-gaunts.

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Yes, you are quite right. The quote is:


"When I was 6 or 7 I used to be tormented constantly with a peculiar type of recurrent nightmare in which a monstrous race of entities (called by me 'night-gaunts'—I don't know where I got hold of the name) used to snatch me up [and] carry me off... Undoubtedly I derived the [creatures' appearance] from the jumbled memory of Doré drawings (largely the illustrations to 'Paradise Lost') which fascinated me in waking hours." 




Forms angelic (or eudaemonic?), forms cacodaemonic and hideous, forms bestial, the smoke-choked, serpent-swarming Pandaemonium of the gaping maws and the strange dragon- and bat- and bladewinged anthropomorphic horrors that I shall certainly now see as night-gaunts, blade-winged nudes with curling horns, strange riders on stranger mounts -- all just a few shabby impressions... Now a nameless city founders under flood, colonnade and ziggurat, strange leprous frog-faced lion-beasts, ghastly bulls and tusked horrors, the water seething and the steps clogged with stinking, screaming mortal forms... winged forms fall from cloven sky and riven earth, a tree dangles over the abyss.


They are brilliant and genuinely chilling.

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