Illustrations to Gormenghast

These ink and water colour drawings were inspired by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy.  The first book, Titus Groan, was written while Peake was enlisted in the army during the Second World War, and was published in 1946. The second book, Gormenghast appeared in 1950, and finally Titus Alone, 1959. Mervyn Peake was an artist, poet and writer, but in his life time he was  most widely known as one of the most gifted illustrators of his generation. Born to missionary parents in China in 1911, his adult life was spent primarily in and around London with periods spent on Sark, a small rocky Island in the English Channel. By the age of 47, Peake had developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and his extraordinary creative life was bought to an all- too- early end four years later in 1962. He died in 1968.

Gormenghast is the name of a vast and semi- derelict castle that exists in its own remote time and place. The castle is sparsely inhabited by vivid characters including the titular hero, Titus Groan, around whom the story unfolds. The castle is a brooding presence, extending indefinitely into long abandoned labyrinths and uncharted regions. Gormenghast is a dense and ponderous text that evokes a strong and very particular atmosphere, appealing mainly to those able to appreciate Mervyn Peake’s idiosyncratic style. The story is full of extraordinary flights of imagination and dramatic action, but it is the extended dream like reveries describing the passage of time and the minute particulars of place that I find most unique and satisfying.