A triptych and a problematic man

I grew up in New England. When I was young, I read anything strange, creepy, ghostly or monster laden I could get my hands on. (this will surprise no one, I expect) This means that it was inevitable that I would encounter the work of HP Lovecraft.  I revelled in his depictions of strange New England and it seemed that if I just turned the right corner, I might find Innsmouth or a library which held a copy of the dreaded Necronomicon. (this book showed up quite frequently in his work, considering how very rare it was!) My experience of New England was certainly coloured by reading HPL. (also, I think it is a genuinely creepy place in its own right and I say this with great warmth and appreciation.)

Let us now move forward to my time at Rhode Island School of Design. Benefit Street in Providence Rhode Island looks very much like a setting from a piece of HPL fiction. (This is no accident. He had the words “I am Providence” inscribed on his grave stone) Through reading about Lovecraft and his influences, I discovered Lord Dunsany (who remains one of my favourite writers in the world-ever) The first Illustration job I was offered was for The Necronomicon (Unshockingly, a journal focussing on Lovecraft’s work and similar weird fiction) and the second, was for Crypt of Cthullhu. (This cover I was thrilled to see in the window of The Forbidden Planet in NY a few months later. I was convinced that I had pretty much arrived at that point) I was accepted as an illustrator (and in some cases, compadre) in the HPL publishing/reading circle. As someone just breaking into the world of illustration, this was a pretty big deal for me. (and many of those friendships remain!) Here comes the tricky part though. I was also asked to do a cover for the published letters of HPL. In order to do so, I read the letters. I was shocked to discover that the man was a racist. (I should not have been, I now see, but I just thought of words like “swarthy” as being colourful period language) I am not a Lovecraft scholar, so there may be factors of which I am unaware but I have trouble with the idea that there is really anything that can “mitigate” racism. I have, therefore, significantly cooled on the old chap. I do enjoy what many have done with his mythos and Cthullhu has played a part in my coming here to England to Marry Nimue so, there is certainly some cause for gratitude there!

So, this triptych, then. I was asked by my friend Michelle Souliere to contribute some art to a Lovecraft themed show in Portland, Maine. I pondered, and thought, well, the piece of fiction that HPL did that was most directly inspired by Lord Dunsany would have to be the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Also-I had not done a triptych in ages. I drew the panels back when we still lived on the narrowboat and have only now got to colouring them and putting them together.  And, here it is.


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2 Responses to A triptych and a problematic man

  1. John Andersen says:

    Fine work, Tom! As one who has stalked his own share of NE streets, I really enjoyed the “how you got there.” Cheers!

  2. elmediat says:

    Definitely problematic and a product of his times. Layer the cultural views of his times on top of more personal family upbringing and you have layer on layer of inner conflicts and demons. One of his closest friends was a homosexual. He married a Jewish woman who introduced him to a wider circle of cultural – ethnicities, individuals who he accepted.

    One must somehow see the man and his works in both a historical and personal context. One can only wonder how many more widely accepted artists and writers of his time perhaps held similar views, they just were less inclined to express them on the record .

    Analyze the work/artistic creativity for what it offers and reveals about the man and the society. Consider also why it has such resonance in so many different media.

    Great post and visual compositions. 🙂

    I am presently working on a piece that emulates the Dunsany influenced Dreamland tales and wanted to see what others in the blogging community were posting about Dunsany & Lovecraft . Many of these Lovecraft’s early Dream tales seem to concentrate on his metaphysical and poetic concerns; to me they seem less tinged with cultural & social baggage, closer to Poe and Dunsany’s art.

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