The First Attic, 1973
Charles W. Stewart (1915 - 2001)
RA Collection: Art
Charles Stewart created this unpublished series of gothic illustrations for the novel Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. Titus Groan, first published in 1946, was the first in a trilogy of fantasy novels by Peake dubbed the 'Gormenghast' series. The novel follows events in the castle of Gormenghast after Titus, the heir of Lord Sepulchrave is born. Activities arise from the kitchen boy, Steerpike's plot to become more powerful in the castle. The Royal Academy Collections also include Stewart's illustrations for Gormenghast, the second novel in the series.
Annotations on the back of the drawings indicate Stewart's working methods; in some cases he documents the source of the imagery such as in number six 'Steerpike Peeping from the Balcony', which notes "ceiling & chandelier: Mario Praz p.301" and "Globe: Mario Praz p.203". At other times he annotates intended edits such as in number three 'Steerpike Surveying Gormenghast' he notes "the castle more broken and ruinous… the colour of the stone darker & more sombre variously within image."
Charles Stewart's interest in the gothic is rooted in his childhood spent in a Victorian mansion in Scotland, which he described as "lit by oil lamps and candles … to a small child it seemed a giant's castle… ghosts were largely taken for granted by the inhabitants." Stewart studied at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting in London from 1932 where he became joint principal in 1955. As a student he was also a professional ballet dancer but the art school's principal made him choose between ballet and drawing prompting Stewart to focus on the latter.
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