Illustrating Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness drew little attention when it was first published in 1899, but eventually grew to be recognised as one of the best novels of the 20th century.

Set at the cusp of the twentieth century, Heart of Darkness follows Charles Marlow, an ivory transporter, on his journey through the Congo. It is a complex and nuanced tale that delves into colonialism and human psychology.  Through the character of Marlow, and his fascination with authoritarian ivory trader Mr Kurtz, the destructive mentality of colonialism is brought to life.

Grace Hawes Heart of Darkness [house of illustration]The novella is now the theme of a book illustration competition run by London-based publisher The Folio Society and the charity organization House of Illustration, which has produced some powerful and imaginative works.

The project invites illustrators over the age of 18 to illustrate the book. The winner receives a Folio Society commission to illustrate the book.

Previous competitions have featured Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Albert Camus’s The Outsider.

The 2014 leg of the competition was launched in September, and inspired both digital and traditional artworks based on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Winners will be announced later in the month. You can view the 25 entries which were long-listed for the competition on the House of Illustration website.


* Illustrations by John Murray and Grace Hawes via the House of Illustration website.