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Ralph Steadman’s gnarly illustrations for Animal Farm are what the book should have shipped with

George Orwell’s canonical 1945 text Animal Farm may be a fable, but it’s far from your happy-go-lucky, animal centric fairytale. Firmly crafted in Orwell’s wartime dystopia, the novel satirises the events leading up to World War II through the lens of a seemingly bland farm which slowly moves under the thumb of a power-mad gaggle of swine.

At the time, any criticism of Queen and mother Britannia was wildly negated, even censored. Orwell’s extended farmhouse metaphor was a finely crafted camouflage, hiding his defamations from the general public. It seems fitting then, that an equally grotesque visual should accompany the text at a later date.

animal farm illustrations george orwell ralph steadman

All illustrations are equal, but some are more equal than others: Ralph Steadman’s 1995 Animal Farm scratchings match the soul of the text like none before.

Political cartoonist David Low was the man who first illustrated Orwell’s political parable. While Low’s work was satirical and well-matched to Orwell’s prose, his illustrations pale when compared to the scabrous beauty of Ralph Steadman’s grotesque scratchings. Steadman provided illustrations for the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm in 1995.

I’d be hard put to think of any other artist who so effectively depicts the grim satire at the heart of Orwell’s tale. Steadman’s drawings seem to be on the verge of exploding with fury at the raw injustice of life or, in this case, the political allegory of the endless brutal horror of Animal Farm. – Dangerous Minds.

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June 20, 2017