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The Accidental Illustrator Of Sherlock Holmes

por Salvador Muir (2019-10-03)


It is not commonly known, except of course amongst Sherlock Holmes afficionados, that the illustrator responsible for the sketches that accompanied the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles most famous character in The Strand Magazine, only became so by accident.

Sidney Edward Paget was born in London in 1860 and streamin lates movies became interested in drawing from an early age. He studied for two years at the British Museum, prior to attending Heatherleys School Of Art, and later, The Royal Academy. He had his first picture exhibited at The Academy when he was only 18, and subsequently had many more exhibited there. His subjects included mythological subjects and landscapes, but from the 1890s he favoured black and white work more and more.

Now of course best known for his Sherlock Holmes Illustrations. In fact, he was not the original choice of illustrator. George Newnes, of Strand Magazine actually wanted Pagets younger brother Walter, at the time a much better known artist and illustrator, having already illustrated Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe. However, he made the mistake of addressing the commission to Sidney. He illustrated The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, which was the first twelve stories to be published by The Strand, this was from July 1891 to December 1892.

Initially Sir Arthur Conan Doyle complained that Paget made Holmes much more handsome than he (Doyle) had originally envisaged and described the character. It has been said that Sidney Paget modelled his drawings of the great detective on the likeness of his brother Walter. Although another, older brother (there were at least five brothers, all illustrators and artists), Henry Marriot Paget is quoted in the 1912 edition of the Oxford Dictionary Of National Biography as saying The assertion that the artists brother Walter, or any other person, served as the model for the portrait of Sherlock Holmes is incorrect. I would guess that he should know, as he was apparently very close to his brother.

From that beginning Sidney went on to draw 537 illustrations for the Holmes stories, with Conan Doyle specifically requesting that he be the illustrator when he revived the series with The Hound Of The Baskervilles in 1901-2. In all he illustrated one Holmes novel and 37 short stories. And his are still the illustrations that have influenced every subsequent interpretation, in all types of media. To the extent that after Pagets early death in 1908, the illustrators who came after found that they had to imitate his style when drawing Sherlock Holmes. Whilst largely forgotten except to his fans, one of his original small (ten and a half by six and threequarter inches) drawings of Holmes and Moriarty at the edge of the Reichenbach Falls was sold by Sothebys in New York on 16th November 2004 for $220,800.

Not a bad career for someone who came to it by accident.