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The story of a Rubaiyat artist – John Yunge–Bateman (1897–1971)

April 15, 2020

Bob Forrest has been researching a Rubaiyat artist, John Yunge-Bateman, whose edition of FitzGerald’s poem was first published by Golden Cockerel Press in 1958.  Some of us were rather ‘surprised’ by the subject matter of this set of illustrations when we first encountered it.  As Bob puts it in his introduction to the article detailing his investigations:

Naval officer and artist John Yunge–Bateman will be known to most readers of this essay mainly for his somewhat erotic illustrations of The Rubaiyat. But though he certainly had a penchant for depicting naked women, there is more to him than that, and he deserves also to be remembered for his other wide–ranging book illustrations, notably for works of natural history and educational books for children. But let us begin with his Rubaiyat.

The full article on Yunge-Bateman’s life and works is published on Bob Forrest’s web site.  It can be accesed via the following link  Bob gives us a detailed commentary on Yunge-Bateman’s  Rubaiyat, with excellent copies of the images.  He sets out the artist’s parallel career in the Navy in two world wars, and lists many other books and magazines that Yunge-Bateman worked on, including Ovid’s Metamorphoses, some of Shakespeare’s works as well as a short-lived Space Age comic.  There are also many images from these different works, which illustrate well the great variety of Yunge-Bateman’s style.

Altogether Bob has provided us with a very interesting Rubaiyat related story and it is well worth a read.  Our thanks to Bob yet again for sharing his work with us all.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2020 1:58 pm

    Hello Sandra and Bill,

    Thanks for this most interesting post. Like yourselves I’ve been mightily puzzled over the years by the erotic predelictions of so many of the Omar illustrators since I fail to perceive much if any of that in the verses. And furthermore, since the Omar I perceive seems comfortable and content with being … shall I say “long in years” … and despite that early reference to the New Year now … “reviving old desires” … it seems to me that his relationship with his … “beloved” seems to lean more toward ‘agape’ than ‘eros’.

    Yet, having said that, it’s hard not to admire JYB’s voluptuous fantasies. Perhaps a little more so because some of my reading entertainment in these troubled times happens to be Boccaccio’s “Decameron”.

    On the subject of Bob Forrest, I’m amazed and full of admiration, at his prodigious and wide-ranging research.

    I hope you both are keeping safe and reasonably composed through these times.

    Most cordial regards.


  2. April 16, 2020 10:00 am

    Thanks for your comments, David. We find that so many of the illustrations to the Rubaiyat provide a very debatable interpretation of the verses of Khayyam and FitzGerald. The whole concept of ‘the beloved’ is itself a subject for much debate. But, as you suggest, the work of each artist is interesting and generally worth looking at in its own right.

    Enjoy Boccaccio – that certainly takes you into another world. Take care.

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