June 23, 2011

Yours truly, F. O. C. Darley

It is understandable that Felix Octavius Carr Darley shortened his signature to "F. O. C. Darley." Born on June 23, 1822 in Philadelphia, he became associated with most of the major names of early American literature as an illustrator. His work was so widely distributed and respected, in fact, that some have called him the "Father of American Illustration."

As a boy, young Felix showed aspirations in art, which his parents tried to dissuade him of by placing him in a mercantile firm. Their attempt was unsuccessful, and he continued sketching until a friend suggested he submit his art to Philadelphia's Saturday Museum. In 1843, he illustrated one of the highest-circulating new short stories of the year, "The Gold-Bug" by Edgar Allan Poe. Around the same time, Poe also hired Darley to be the exclusive illustrator for his planned journal The Stylus (which never came to be). Darley's first big break, however, came in 1848, when he was hired to illustrate the works of Washington Irving:
"Ichabod's Chase," from Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
From there, he illustrated Sylvester Judd's novel Margaret, as well as works by James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Gilmore Simms, Fanny Osgood, and American editions of Charles Dickens. In 1868, Darley published a book of his own, Sketches Abroad with Pen and Pencil, which he also illustrated (he called it an "extremely mild literary effort").

From an 1870s edition of The Scarlet Letter

1 comment:

  1. Nice article; it's such a shame that Felix is not remembered by most Americans. In the time before modern communications, his work was the only "picture" of Colonial and Victorian life, as well as that of the West. Most of his work was in black and white ... as more colored works began appearing, people, of course, preferred them. (NRH, SC)