The black and white eerie illustrations of Lorenzo Mattotti in Neil Gaiman’s version of the Brothers Grimm story of Hansel and Gretel are what pinned my eyes on the book. They are so overly inky that you hardly recognize what is actually depicted on some of them. But if you looked them from a distance, suddenly the details take shape and you can feel the dark vibe that characterizes this scaring story. The illustrations are so dramatic and powerful due to the depth, the artist accomplished with the careful use of the white.
Lorenzo Mattotti explained that the inspiration for these expressive drawings came from a walk in the unique forests in Patagonia during one of his trips a decade ago. Trying to reproduce on his canvas the atmosphere he felt there, he simply limited the palette to abundant black outlined by a little white. In 2007 the artist was asked to present his vision of Hensel and Gretel for an exhibition at the Metropolitan Opera celebrating the performance of the Humperdinck’s eponymous opera, and without a second thought, he used his newly discovered technique to convey the dark theme of the tale. Two years later the images were published in books in France and Italy, in collaboration with French and Italian writers who followed the classic story.
Years later Neil Gaimen, who was also appealed by these drawings, narrated the tale, but true to himself in his ominous style. He discusses his grounds in this short video – “If you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids—and in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back. Tell them you can win”. The book was published in October, 2014 by Toon Books.