By: Elizabeth A. Schultz
The most continuously, frequently, and diversely illustrated of all American novels, Moby-Dick has attracted some remarkable book illustrators in Rockwell Kent, Boardman Robinson, Garrick Palmer, Barry Moser, and Bill Sienkiewicz, among others represented here. It has also inspired extraordinary creations by such prominent artists as Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella, Sam Francis, Benton Spruance, Leonard Baskin, Theodoros Stamos, Richard Ellis, Ralph Goings, Seymour Lipton, Walter Martin, Tony Rosenthal, Richard Serra, and Theodore Roszak.
The artists reflect in equal measure the novel's realistic (plot, character, natural history) and philosophical modes, its visual and visionary dimensions. Some, like the obsessed and haunted Gilbert Wilson, claim Moby-Dick as their "Bible." Still others view the novel as a touchstone for feminist, multicultural, and environmentalist themes, or mock its status as a cultural icon.
Schultz demonstrates how these and many other diverse talents enlarge our appreciation of Moby-Dick and how literature and art can amplify each other's meanings and achievements. Yet ultimately she, like Melville, concludes that the great white whale remains unpainted and unread in any absolute or final sense.