The Black Cat, for Edgar Allan Poe's “Selected Tales of Mystery,” 1909

John Byam Liston Shaw British
Related author Edgar Allan Poe American

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Byam Shaw here illustrates "The Black Cat," a story by Edgar Allan Poe that relates how a wife-murderer inadvertently walls up a cat with his spouse's corpse, then is eventually betrayed by the animal's cries. The artist focuses on the tale's dramatic denoument, using broken bricks and falling plaster to frame a furious one-eyed cat perched atop the body (all we see of the latter is a patch of brown hair and glimpse of a brilliant purple gown). Poe's macabre stories strongly appealed to imaginative artists who worked from the 1890s into the early 20th century, a period considered the golden age of book illustration.

The Black Cat, for Edgar Allan Poe's “Selected Tales of Mystery,” 1909, John Byam Liston Shaw (British, Ferndale, Madras, India, 1872–1919 London), Watercolor and gouache (bodycolor)

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