Charles Stewart: Black and White Gothic

20 Dec 2014 – 1 Feb 2015

Event times

Tuesday – Sunday 10am–6pm
Closed Monday

Cost of entry

Complimentary entry with a valid Royal Academy exhibition ticket or £3 General Admission ticket. Friends of the RA go free.

Royal Academy of Arts

London, United Kingdom


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Unsettling, otherworldly and murderous scenarios are dramatically played out in Charles Stewart’s deceptively simple book illustrations, striking examples of the neglected British tradition of black and white book art.


Illustrator Charles Stewart (1915–2001) was haunted by the Victorian novel Uncle Silas (1864) for over 40 years. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale of Maud Ruthyn, a naïve heiress in peril, inspired Stewart to produce a set of 30 full-page pen and ink drawings, in the manner of the great graphic artists of the nineteenth century.

The novel takes place within the confines of a neglected country house and its grounds. The decay is moral as well as physical, as hints of murder, immorality and the occult hover around the spectral Silas. A fascinating array of influences formed Stewart’s personal vision of Silas, Maud and the house Bartram-Haugh; influences we can identify from his archive, held in the RA Collection. Film stills and theatre designs, proofs and publishing materials from the abortive Bodley Head edition of Uncle Silas(1948) are displayed alongside the decorative binding designs made for the edition finally realised by the Folio Society in 1988.

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