Crowd Scenes In Art And Illustration

Crowd Scenes In Art And Illustration

How long does it take to illustrate a picture book? Well, that depends on many things, including the illustrator’s style. Another important factor: The nature and number of any crowd scenes. An illustration of a crowd scene, with individuated characters, can take as long as the rest of the entire book.

Below is a collection of crowd scenes in art and illustration. Some of these feature just enough characters to suggest a ‘crowd’. Scroll further down for examples of massive crowds, depicted with splatters and dots.

First, a picture book illustrated by Anne Herbauts. Like “The Emperor’s New Clothes“, the story, Prince Silencio, requires various spreads full of crowds.

Bascially, a king can’t tolerate noise. His son, the Prince, has been commanded to keep people quiet. Unlike his father, the prince finds noise beautiful.

When the King dies, a joyful, loud, wild tumult convulses throughout the Kingdom. The Prince wants to join in the merrymaking, but the people drive him away. But without Prince Silencio, it’s impossible for them to hear anything at all. Their words run together, they grow agitated, and chaos ensues.

In the end, the people call Prince Silencio back, having realized the need for silence in their lives. 

Anne Herbauts has individuated the characters in her crowds, but also heavily stylised them. We get a sense of ‘crowd’ (and also of ‘noise’) even though her style makes use of negative space.

Prince Silencio by Anne Herbauts
Prince Silencio by Anne Herbauts double spread. She has drawn eight characters, yet we know this is a ‘crowd’.
Prince Silencio by Anne Herbauts. Look, it gets quite grim.

INDIVIDUATED CHARACTERS IN CROWD SCENES

Let’s take a look at other illustrations of crowds. How many people must an illustrator draw before readers decode a scene as ‘crowd’? This isn’t just about numbers. Illustrators must vary the body language and poses, often exaggerating them. Some face the viewer, others face away. Some populate the foreground, others face away.

William Donahey (1883-1970) General Addressing the Crowd, The Teenie Weenies, W. Donahey 1923
William Donahey (1883-1970) General Addressing the Crowd, The Teenie Weenies, W. Donahey 1923
Robert Weaver (July 5, 1924- September 4, 1994) American illustrator. The Races. Another high-angle shot. The pencil rendering is beautiful.
Mac Conner (1913-2019) Conner captured the novelty of television in this illustration for the story “Veni, Vedi, Video” in a 1949 issue of Collier’s
William Andrew Pogany (August 24, 1882 – July 30, 1955) was a prolific Hungarian illustrator of children's and other books
William Andrew Pogany (August 24, 1882 – July 30, 1955) was a prolific Hungarian illustrator of children’s and other books
Julian De Miskey. New Yorker magazine. 1930.
Harriet Pincus, (1938 - 2001) crowd
Harriet Pincus (1938 – 2001) A street crowd. The characters remind me of the creepy adult-children of Maurice Sendak.
Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) Before the Komödie on Ku'damm Night (c. 1928)
Another street scene. This is by Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) “Before the Komödie on Ku’damm Night” (c. 1928)
Nikifor Rashchektayev – The Snow Queen. I believe these characters are on a slope, which is how we see all of them at once?
Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987) gallery crowd
Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987) gallery crowd
Milan Bread Riot from Manzoni’s ‘I Promessi Sposi’,’The Betrothed’- Illustration by Tancredi Scarpelli, circa 1935. Most people in the crowd are facing away, which makes the viewer feel like we are part of the crowd. Importantly, though, we get to see some of the faces. The guy in the bottom left corner tells us how we should be feeling, too. (He is our Choric Figure.)
William Heath Robinson. A veritable swarm of people. People leaning out of windows add to the crowded feel and also add depth because they are much smaller.
Protest How People Come Together To Change The World
Protest How People Come Together To Change The World. Diversity is so rare in books that when we see a more realistic representation of our community it stands out as someone making an effort.
‘The Holy Year, 1900’ Illustration by B. Paolucci. Here’s an old one, from 1899. We’re looking over people’s heads. This must be how it feels to be tall.
Felix Kelly, Etretât in Normandy. The Impressionist style is good for crowd scenes I guess, because you don’t have to paint every tiny eyeball. This one is from 1908.
‘Waiting at the Bus Stop.’ (c. 1953) Ronald Ossory Dunlop. Here’s another broad-strokes example of a crowd. The kid in the red coat prevents the other characters from blending into the setting.
Fiep Westendorp (Dutch illustrator) 1916 - 2004 Rained Out Holidays 1961
Fiep Westendorp (Dutch illustrator) 1916 – 2004 Rained Out Holidays 1961
Arthur Rackham The Dance in Cupid’s Alley 1904
Arthur Rackham The Dance in Cupid’s Alley 1904
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman play city
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman play city
Miroslav Šašek (1916 -1980) A 1963 illustration for his own book This Is The Way To The Moon.
Peer Gynt in the Hall of the Mountain King 1913 Theodor Kittelsen
“Peer Gynt in the Hall of the Mountain King” 1913 by Theodor Kittelsen
Broadway New York City 1868 by W.S.L. Jewett for Harper’s Weekly

HEADS AS DOTS

Let’s take a look at massive crowds, where the heads are splatters and dots.

All I know about this image: It is from 1872.
Richard Doyle (British illustrator) 1824 – 1883, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, 1879. The Pied Piper and the children are distinct. The rest of the crowd recede into an amorphous collection of dots. We get the sense the entire town has turned up to see the children follow the piper. (And not one of the crowd thinks to stop him.)
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The Astronomer-Poet of Persia translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald with drawings by Elihu Vedder, 1886
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The Astronomer-Poet of Persia translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald with drawings by Elihu Vedder, 1886. An excellent example of individuated faces receding into not just dots but textured shading. A beautiful gradation.
Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (Lausanne, 1859 – Paris, 1923) Ball on the 14th of July, 1889. Notice all the other ‘head shapes’ in the background, including the lanterns and the dashes suggesting something (not sure what).
Ludek Marold for 'The Star' by H.G. Wells in The Graphic, December 25 1897 about a star which nearly hits Earth
Ludek Marold for ‘The Star’ by H.G. Wells in The Graphic, December 25 1897 about a star which nearly hits Earth. Although everyone is looking up, the illustrator has varied the poses very well.
Paul Zelinsky’s Swamp Angel illustrated by Anne Isaacs. This one includes a giant, which is great for varying the sizes of the bodies. This illustration is an example of An Entire World Within A Single Illustration. Perspective takes us from an intimate party scene all the way beyond the mountains.
Les Halles (1895) by Léon Lhermitte (French, 1844-1925). Historic marketplace in Paris
Les Halles (1895) by Léon Lhermitte (French, 1844-1925). An historic marketplace in Paris. (For more markets in illustration see this post. They tend to be very busy.) The characters never turn into dots, per se. Even the background characters look realistic. This would take months and months to paint.
Harrogate It’s Quicker By Rail LNER Railway poster by Septimus E Scott c1930. Also sold as a jigsaw puzzle. The three foreground characters sit apart from the rest of the crowd, affording a pleasant amount of negative space between them and the rest of the crowd. The other crowd scenes make me anxious, but not this one, except I think the old man is probably a cantankerous old crank.
The Royal Guard in Copenhagen for the Kings Birthday (1925) by Paul Gustav Fischer (1860-1924)
The Royal Guard in Copenhagen for the King’s Birthday (1925) by Paul Gustav Fischer (1860-1924)
Bruno Cassiers, born in 1949 in Brussels crowded cold place
Miroslav Šašek (1916 -1980) 1965 illustration for This Is Hong Kong, one of a series of country guides he produced for children. Also used for BOAC and Canadian Pacific Airlines
Miroslav Šašek (1916 -1980) 1965 illustration for This Is Hong Kong, one of a series of country guides he produced for children. Also used for BOAC and Canadian Pacific Airlines
Poster by Richard Erdoes, 1960s
Arthur Getz (1913-1996) for a 1966 New Yorker cover basketball
Arthur Getz (1913-1996) for a 1966 New Yorker cover. A basketball crowd. Notice how the dots suggest part of the crowd is lit up, another part in darkness.
Poster by Duilio Cambellotti, 1948. The crowd is very much part of the background. They’re not quite dots. There’s just enough detail to suggest entire bodies.
Arthur Getz 1954. Dots with shoulders and torsos.
Arnold Friberg Football at Notre Dame
Arnold Friberg Football at Notre Dame
Boys' Life Magazine October 1934 football crowd
Boys’ Life Magazine October 1934 football crowd
The Digest – Literary Digest – Magazine – September 4th – 1937

UNCHANGING SCALE, OFF-KILTER PERSPECTIVE

Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) illustrated by Chas. B. Slackman. For contrast, here we have a deliberate avoidance of realistically rendered scale. In folk art style, every character is the same size, no matter where they are in the scene.
Mitsumasa Anno (安野光雅) Another folk artist.
Arthur Rackham for Magic Hill. Characters are arranged so we can see all the faces, not realistically, as if they’re all standing on flat ground.
WICKFORD OF BEACON HILL (1962) WT Cummings crowd scene
WICKFORD OF BEACON HILL (1962) WT Cummings. A crowd scene with plenty of negative space.
An artist who took no shortcuts, even when drawing a crowd on a city street. Arnold Lobel, from Small Pig, 1969.

MAKING USE OF SILHOUETTE

This technique will always remind me of Lotte Reiniger, whose invention was stolen by Walt Disney.

1960s record cover

OTHER USES OF DOTS TO SUGGEST ‘MANY’

Flowers and grasses frequently get this treatment, of course.

Gustave Klimt (1862-1918) – 1907 Poppy Field

Here we have a building example.

Miroslav Šašek (1916 – 1980) 1965 illustration for This is Hong Kong, a children’s travel book series

THE MIRROR CHEAT

Haha. Well, a digital artist would duplicate the layer and flip it. This wasn’t such a ‘cheat’ in 1949!

Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987) The New Yorker cover April 30, 1949

SEE ALSO

“It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.”

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Crowd Scenes at the Rijks Online Museum

Lemon girl young adult novella

READ AT MY OTHER BLOG

Header illustration: Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962) New Yorker cover 1950