Introduction: In Memoriam Illustrated
Over the course of the next ten weeks, I will be creating 100+ drawings that illustrate Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem In Memoriam A. H. H. Tennyson wrote this poem as an elegy for his friend Alfred Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 22. It is the origin of such famous phrases as “’Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all,” and it was a favorite of Queen Victoria, who was comforted by it after the death of Prince Albert (Tennyson; Queen Victoria, queenvictoriasjournals.org). Its themes of perseverance and optimism in the face of grief resonate deeply with me as well. Much of my recent work has reflected on life and loss of my cousin, Gina Marie Mack, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 21 due to cerebral bleeding. Like Tennyson did after the loss of Hallam, I found solace in creative expression and discovered the power of art as an outlet in order to persevere, and the importance of reflecting on death as a part of life.
In addition to being thematically resonant, the poem itself is an exercise in long-form, incremental creation. It contains 133 cantos and is said to be “an unusually sustained exercise in lyric verse” (Hass). Tennyson wrote the poem over the course of 17 years, and his profound collected reflections on grief are a testament to the ways in which loss continues to impact us long after a person has died, but also to the continual healing process through which we learn to endure. I hope to unearth meaningful parallels between this process and the exercise of creating daily reflective drawings.
I will be reading the poem for the first time as I complete this project, uncovering the layers within Tennyson’s words as I attempt to illustrate them. I ultimately hope to create one drawing for each canto, and the structure of at least 100 drawings in the first ten weeks will help me to reach this goal. I also hope to grow and evolve as an artist through this work, and look forward to unexpected insights and developments. I welcome any feedback, reflections, or stories shared as a result of this project; check back often for images and updates. Thank you for your interest, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.