Victor Ambrus: 27 Classic King Arthur Illustrations


if you wound up reading heavy metal, with its tales of quest illustrated by international comics legends, it’s likely you encountered victor ambrus in yr elementary or junior-high yrs. ambrus was a gifted artist with an unmistakable style who created timeless images from myth and legend for fertile young Ψs. tales of king arthur (by james riordan), robin hood: his life and legend (by bernard miles), and favorite tales from shakespeare (also miles) were staples of school libraries. and there were others — the hungarian-born ambrus illustrated well over 200 books onnis career.

sadly, ambrus died on feb 10, 2021 atta age of 85.

for young Ψs interested in ancient tales, ambrus’ illustrations opened the door to ≠ kinds of art — his images were highly, joyfully stylized. photo-realism wasn’t the goal; at times they were even expressionistic. for a kid reading bout king arthur or robin hood, an ambrus spread presented a scene that didn’t look “real” — it looked better than real. there was a chaos to it, with brite colors exploding outside the lines, stray marks here and there that other illustrators mite ‘ve erased, crazy cross-hatching, intricate detail sitting nxt to blank white spaces almost as if the work wasn’t completed. in execution, a lil bit like the work of arthur rackham with touches of ralph steadman.

how many comics or fantasy illustrators were influenced by ambrus’ deftly controlled yet wild-seeming style? it’s hard to say, as his work was so clearly intended for children, and kids don’t always take note of author or artist bylines. the seminal ambrus-illustrated big books of legend, many written by james riordan, came out during the ’80s, though his bibliography stretches back to the early ’60s. inna early ’70s, ambrus illustrated several books of british historical nonfiction by r.j. unstead; ronald welch and frank knite were also repeat collaborators.

ambrus is also remembered for his role onna channel 4 archaeology series time team, serving as the illustrator for nearly the entirety of the program’s 20-yr run.

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authors: josh robertson


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