However, the definitive look of Sherlock Holmes typically known since the late 1800s is more like this:
This look for Sherlock Holmes comes partially from the author’s descriptions, but iconically it comes from the artist Sidney Paget. When Sherlock Holmes as a series first appeared in the Strand Magazine, it is believed that artist Walter Paget was commissioned for the job of illustrating the stories, however, the publishers accidentally wrote to the artist’s brother, Sidney Paget. The Strand grew in popularity and became a best-seller in the 1890s, and with it, Paget’s illustrations of Holmes became more elaborate.
Paget is credited for details associated with Sherlock Holmes that never appear in Doyle’s writing, such as the deerstalker cap and a cape.
Others note that Paget’s dark mood illustrations of the Holmes detective stories probably influenced the American detective movies and film noir.
Even today, many reprints of Holmes stories still feature illustrations by Paget. In total, he completed around 356 illustrations for Doyle’s literary character.
Even the stage versions of Holmes were influenced by Paget:
The curved pipe is actually attributed to actor William Gillette, although Holmes does smoke pipes in the stories, and Paget has illustrated him smoking pipes.
And certainly, the film versions borrowed from the Paget image of Holmes:
The most celebrated depiction of Sherlock Holmes is the 1980s-1990s Granada TV series starring actor Jeremy Brett which comes closest to the mood, storytelling, and the iconic look of the famous detective.
A comparison of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes next to Paget’s illustrations:
It should be mentioned that even the offbeat versions of Holmes (mentioned at the beginning of this page) pay homage to iconic scenes and images by Doyle and Paget … they’re not mentioned here so as not to spoil anyone’s viewing (a.k.a. spoilers).
A lot of people around the world have an image of Sherlock Holmes, and Sidney Paget deserves some recognition for his role in creating the iconic detective.
- The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes Debuts in Portland With an Exclusive Getaway at the Governor Hotel (prweb.com)
- Sherlock Holmes – A Scandal In Bohemia (gnostalgia.wordpress.com)
- Sir Ian McKellen next up to play Sherlock Holmes (tellyspotting.org)
- Oliver Tearle: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sherlock Holmes (huffingtonpost.com)