Beauty and the Beast - How Different Artists Saw the Beast Differently

by Tolovaj

Beauty and the Beasts was illustrated countless times. The Beast especially sparked the imagination of the artists.

Le Prince de Beaumont's Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular fairy tales of all time. It's very attractive to artists as well. It's interesting to note that Beauty (sometimes named Belle) never sparked as nearly as much inspiration as the Beast. Sure, they loved to portray her but it is always him who gets the most attention.

The Beast is an evasive character of mystery, melancholy, fear, charity, ... You name it. Everybody can find his or her personal truth in this immortal story which is much more than just another animal-groom tale. The Beast materializes our own system of values and worries, so everybody can see him differently. Everybody should see him differently.

This is why I decided to choose 10 illustrators with unique visions of the story, the Beast, and their perception of the audience.


As the name already suggests the Beast is scary and many illustrators used that as a starting point. But each one of us has different fears, so this is a bit tricky. From the story we learn about the Beast's human characteristics, so he should be at least slightly similar to humans. Octopuses and scorpions are definitely out of the question. All illustrators decided to give the beast a head, four limbs, and clothes or fur or fashion accessories. Typical scary details are tusks, horns, claws, sharp teeth, and so on.

1. Walter Crane (1845-1915)

Merchant caught in the Beast's garden

This is an 1874 edition for Edmund Evans, published by George Routledge & Sons. The Beast is essentially a boar. Tipycaly for Walter Crane's style there are a lot of details, like a monocle and a pocket watch. They not only add to the Beast's humanoid look, but they also show that he is rich and classy.

2. William Mulready (1786-1863)

Merchant attacked by the Beast

This Irish painter who lived and worked in London depicted the Beast as a huge monster resembling an enranged bear with an open muzzle and heavy pawns. It's not clear on what occasion this illustration was made but it' undoubtedly looks the most dangerous of all in this article.


A lot of strange things happen in the story with the action at the Beast's castle being the most strange of all. Fantastic scenes in the story inspired artists to make the title character more strange than dangerous. They achieved that with different approaches but it seems the mixture of characteristics of different animals was the most popular solution.

3. Anne Anderson (1874-1952)

Beauty and the Beast at dinner

Anne Anderson compiled the Beast from a giant lizard with a beak and protruding ears. A necklace is a sign of his noble origin. She painted him in a classic Art Nouveau style using his scales as a sort of decoration matching the checkered pattern on the floor.

4. Gordon Browne (1858-1932)

Beauty and the Beast

Browne illustrated Beauty and the Beast when he was already an established artist. This picture is from Gordon Browne's Series of Old Fairy Tales. The Beast looks like a horse with several strange details like paws, ears, a cap, and even a feather, not to mention the robe decorated with classy details suggesting his royal origin.


The setting of the story has several exotic elements. The merchant's family changes location, the merchant travels to the coast, and the Beast's castle is full of surprises. Some illustrators used that while drawing the title character, and some even created a specific dialogue between the characters and their environment.

5. Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916)

Beauty and the Beast dining

Beauty and the Beast is by far her best-known book with numerous additions to the original story which she compiled from Villeneuve's and Leprince Beaumont's versions. She decided to portray the beast as a kind of giant hairy walrus which makes him the least anthropomorphized of all in this article.

6. Edmund Dulac (1882-1953)

Beauty and the Beast under the tree

Edmund Dulac was an Orientalist and he used a chance to put the story into an exotic environment which would be good for 1001 Nights (he also illustrated numerous stories from this collection). Dulac's Beast is a humanoid with several characteristics of animals but the most obvious detail is probably his headscarf or turban. The Beauty got one as well.


There are many sad moments in the story of Beauty and the Beast. The merchant loses his fortune, gets false hope, and trades his life for his daughter's. Beauty learns that her sisters are more dangerous than the Beast and almost loses him. More than enough chances to instill some sadness into the Beast's appearance.

7. Katharine Pyle (1863-1938)

Beauty and the Beast in the garden

As the younger sister of the so-called Father of American illustration Katharine Pyle never lacked originality or technical skills. Her presentation of the Beast is not scary at all. While he is obviously huge and very strong he immediately makes an impression of a victim (what he really is), not a predator.

8. Warwick Goble (1862-1943)

Beauty finds the Beast in the garden

Warwick Goble's Beast is another hairy animal with some characteristics of a horse. The artist caught the feeling of sadness by depicting the moment when Beauty returns to the Beast's castle and finds him lying still on the ground not knowing if he is dead or alive.


A few illustrators tried to lighten up the story by showing the Beast more comically. While this fairy tale became a classic thanks to dramatic situations and dark tones, it's also a positive tale about the rewards earned through renunciation and sacrifice. When it became a moral tale aimed at young girls, positivity was one of the ways to make it more memorable, and the funny appearance of the Beast was one of the options.

9. Thomas Edward Donnison (1861-1903)

The Beast wants to marry Beauty

Thomas Edward Donnison was an illustrator and especially a very successful cartoonist. He created a full collection of fairy tales (Old Fairy Tales Told Anew) where he condensed the essence of a dozen classic fairy tales in a few lines and one or two illustrations for each. His Beast is small, funny, and looks more like a friendly dog than a monster.

10. Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)

Beauty and the Beast at the tea party

Jessie Wilcox Smith as one of the most successful illustrators of all time was an extremely prolific creator who was accustomed to working fast and making variations on the same theme due to her work for numerous magazines. Books were more of a side job for her. This illustration comes from Now-A-Days Fairy Book published by Dodd, Mead & Company in 1911. It's a book where Grandmother tells various classic stories to children and they stage some of the scenes with their toys in their environment. In this case, the Beast is just a nice guest at the tea party.

If you enjoyed this presentation, you can also check many other illustrations from Beauty and the Beast:

You can help preserve the legacy of vintage artists by sharing this article with everybody, who might be interested. Thank you!

Which of the Beasts above best suits your perception?
Updated: 04/05/2024, Tolovaj
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Tolovaj on 04/14/2024

Blue has many meanings (like all colors), in this case it fits out-of-this-world, heavenly, and melancholic feelings.

Tolovaj on 04/14/2024

Madam Barbot de Villeneuve's version is much longer, with six brothers and six sisters. It was not written as an educational tool but more as a fairy tale, typical for the 17th century with numerous descriptions and decorative elements. Such fairy tales were primarily intended as the basics for plays in courts (with pauses, songs, etc.).

Tolovaj on 04/14/2024

Beauty has a background, so fashionable dress can still fit. On the other hand, the story clearly states that the castle was loaded with dresses for nobility. So, in her case, everything goes.

Tolovaj on 04/14/2024

Snow White is an example of riches-to-rags-to-riches, Hansel and Gretel is rags-to-riches. Yes, I am working on that.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/09/2024

Thank you for the VintageFairyTalePics link in the 10th subheading, about artist Jessie Willcox Smith.

The art work by Jessie Marion King (1875-1949) and the second, Beauty-alone image by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) appeal to met.

That blue-dominant choice in both images attracts me.

What is the color symbolism of the respectively blue-surrounded and blue-dressed Beauty?

DerdriuMarriner on 04/09/2024

Thank you for the Top Illustrations by Top Artists link in your 10th subheading, for artist Jessie Willcox Smith.

The first paragraph in that link to Beauty and the Beast in pictures considers that "Let’s start with less known book written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (169?-1755) who wrote the first version of The Beauty and the Beast. This is actually a novella for adults with basically the same plot we are all familiar with but also with many subplots which are today known only to devoted scholars."

What is an example of a subplot "today known only to devoted scholars"?

(Might including those subplots in the basic-known plot confusingly, tediously, unnecessarily complicate and lengthen that fairy-tale plot about second chances for the Beast and for the unsanctioned rose-picker?)

DerdriuMarriner on 04/09/2024

How the 10 artists dress Beauty intrigues me.

Gordon Browne and Jessie Wilcox Smith perhaps make Beauty respectively economically, practically dressed like for going to work and afternoon, non-evening, non-night dressed like for going to a daytime or pre-dinner evening event such as to morning or noon or Friday Mass (as opposed to Sunday Mass).

Anne Anderson, Eleanor Vere Boyle, Thomas Edward Donnison, Edmund Dulac, Warwick Goble and Katharine Pyle make Beauty dressed fashionably, stylishly like a lady with money and socioeconomic standing, might it not be your interpretation along with mine?

In such case, might those clothes be from the Beast castle wardrobes?

(Might you have seen Guy Ritchie's The man from UNCLE? Beauty in Beast castle wardrobe-chosen clothes reminds me of Armie Hammer as Illyra Kuryakin in his rich-man cover selecting clothes for Alicia Vikander as "chop-shop" girl Gaby Teller.)

DerdriuMarriner on 04/09/2024

Thank you!

It appears that fairy tales at first glance do not necessarily always have socioeconomically rags-to-riches heroines.

For example, Snow White has socioeconomically royal riches as a king's daughter even as she has emotional rags as the stepmother queen's unwanted inherited family member by marriage to Snow White's father.

Is a fairy-tale heroine generally either a king's or a merchant's daughter?

Might the respective fairy tales have matched Cinderella to a specific socioeconomic niche, such as a merchant father?

Where might Gretel stand as (was it) a hunter's daughter?

(It would be educationally entertaining, entertainingly educational for ;-D Tolovaj ;-D to write a wizzley about the socioeconomic niches of fairy-tale heroines and villainesses!)

Tolovaj on 04/08/2024

Merchants were typical middle class. They were not mobility but not poor either. They could even provide good marrieages to poor nobility. But in this case, merchant lost everything, so this story has a structure riches-to-rags-to-riches, just like Cinderella.

Tolovaj on 04/08/2024

I agree.

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