Arthur Rackham was born in 1867 into the Victorian age. He was one of twelve children. He studied at the City of London School where he won prizes and a reputation for his art at a young age. At the age of 18, he became a clerk.
In his spare time studied at the Lambeth School of Art. He began to sell his work to the illustrated magazines of the day like Scraps and Chums. In 1891 and 1892, he had a close association with the Pall Mall Budget as one of this weekly's main illustrative reporters.
The humor and romance and soul that were to make him the premier illustrator of the early twentieth century had not manifested itself. In 1892, he left his clerk position at the Westminster Fire Office for the uncertainty of a career as an illustrator. He landed a regular job at the Westminster Budget, a weekly magazine. His first efforts were decidedly non-fantasy and are very indicative of an artist in search of a style.
His first book illustrations were published in 1893 and they were mostly reused images from magazines or books featuring the work of several illustrators
Nineteen more book assignments followed during the 1890's, with dozens of pictures for two major children's magazines: Cassell's and Little Folks and even one for the venerable St. Nicholas. By far his greatest efforts were being expended in the service of fantasy. The Ingoldsby Legends were revised and updated in 1907.
The limited editions were usually bound in vellum. All were signed by Rackham, and had additional color plates that did not exist in the regular trade editions. Rip Van Winkle was soon followed by Peter Pan. In Kensington Gardens (1906), Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1907) and a host of other popular titles, the last of which, the Wind In The Willows, was published posthumously in 1940. The fact that Rackham's books are sought after today and fetch a high price is testament to the timeless quality of his artwork.
In 1903 Arthur married Edyth Starkie, with whom he had one daughter, Barbara, in 1908. Arthur Rackham won a gold medal at the Milan International Exhibition in 1906 and another one at the Barcelona International Exposition in 1912. His works were included in numerous exhibitions, including one at the Louvre in Paris in 1914. Arthur Rackham died 1939 of cancer in his home in Limpsfield, Surrey.