Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


The Penfold Press has embarked on an exciting – and ambitious – new project. Anyone familiar with the Press will know that Dan loves to collaborate with artists, so he was delighted when painter and illustrator Clive Hicks-Jenkins agreed to work with him on a series of fourteen prints. A keen and prolific book illustrator, Clive has often been inspired by literary texts, and one book he has been thinking about for many years is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Written in the 14th century by the mysterious Pearl Poet and then lost for hundreds of years, Gawain is that rare treat: a medieval classic that still gives enormous pleasure today. Clive has particularly enjoyed the recent translation by Simon Armitage, which combines lively modern English with alliteration and other medieval stylistic quirks. This is as it should be, since style is central to Gawain; the poetry is beautiful, the story exquisitely structured and the Arthurian world presented in all its gleaming glory.

The story is the kind you might find in that compendium of Welsh tales, The Mabinogion, but Sir Gawain is more human than your average legendary hero. Having taken up the challenge offered at the Camelot Christmas feast by the terrifying Green Knight, he embarks on a quest to find this ogre, only to be tested – and found wanting – in unexpected ways. Sir Gawain is both a glittering knight and a fallible young man, and it is this flawed human character that Clive finds particularly engrossing.

Although Clive has illustrated numerous books he is approaching this project as he has previous series of paintings on literary themes. Each print will be inspired by the text and rooted stylistically in its world, but beyond that Clive will allow his imagination free rein – as indeed will Dan. This is a true collaboration, between artist, printmaker and the mysterious Pearl Poet.

James Russell

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