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Sidney Paget's Sherlock Holmes: A Sesquicentennial Exhibition

This year—October 4th, 2010 to be exact—is the 150th birthday of Sidney Paget, the artist who created the iconic look of Sherlock Holmes.

Tall, lean and angular … with a piercing gaze … an aquiline countenance … an air of abstracted intelligence … gentlemanly yet poised for action—that’s the look rooted in popular consciousness. It’s the look that has influenced every illustrator to follow Paget. It’s the look that has inspired the many actors who have played the part from the 19th into the 21st century.

Priory Street Drawing by Sidney Paget

Beyond the famous face and figure, it was also Paget who gave substance to Sherlock Holmes’s surroundings. Within small black-and-white drawings he effectively conjured an entire world—quintessentially Victorian, often foreboding, shadowy but minutely wrought, encompassing details from hats to hansom cabs, weapons to walking sticks, ruffians to railway carriages, lanterns to ladies.

To celebrate Paget’s sesquicentennial, The Grabhorn Institute has collaborated with Sherlockian collector Glen Miranker to present a group of Paget’s original illustrations showing The Great Detective at work. Also on display are the Strand magazines in which each drawing first appeared. Published between 1893 and 1904, they depict scenes from The Adventure of the Stock Broker’s Clerk, The Adventure of the Final Problem, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventure of the Priory School, The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter and The Adventure of the Second Stain. For their owner, each captures some essential characteristic of Sherlock Holmes, reflects a crucial moment in the story or reveals telling details of Paget’s artistry.

Paget was a prolific artist, working in watercolor, oil and pen-and-ink. But of his 356 Sherlockian illustrations, only 30 are known to survive. The drawings here form the largest collection of Sherlockian Pagets in private hands, and their appearance is a rare event, befitting a special artist. Read more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010: Please join for "Sidney Paget’s Sherlock Holmes: Conversation with the Collector" on Tuesday, October 26, 2010. Book collector Glen Miranker will discuss Paget and his association with The Strand Magazine, Sherlock Holmes, and Arthur Conan Doyle. The talk begins at 6 pm, with refreshments from 5 pm. RSVP required: (415) 668-2548 or grabhorn@arionpress.com.

View the exhibition in the Arion Press gallery, Oct. 13 through Nov. 17, 2010.