Monday, September 22, 2008

The Novel Without Words - Lynd Ward

It's been a busy last few days at the gallery. The Calgary Artwalk was having it's 25th year of inviting people out for a stroll through participating galleries over the weekend. The fall weather was fabulous and the gallery (Arts on Atlantic) hosted two artist demonstrations, so I have been very busy.

The novel without words or so called graphic novel came of age with the telling of stories through the use of image only, no text. What we know today as a 'graphic novel' refers to comic style, novel length stories told with accompanying balloon text. In essence the story can be relayed through the use of the pictures and the text and in many cases the story line can be gleaned by perusing the pictures without the text.
Some early proponents of the wordless novel include Lawrence Hyde, Otto Nuckel, Frans Masreel and Lynd Ward. All of these artists used the traditional relief printmaking techniques of wood engraving or woodcut as their medium of choice. This was laborious work as each image was to be cut on a block. In many cases the final books (Novels) were printed from the blocks themselves. The wood engraving or woodblock in black and white makes a strong image and is a very good medium to convey a story line.
These novels were in many cases politically or morally motivated and were used to convey a message to the masses. American artist Lynd Ward brpought the idea of the graphic novel to the US. Lynd Ward decided to be an artist when at an early age he realized that his last name spelt backwards is "Draw". He studied in Germany under Hans Alexander Mueller a noted wood engraver. There he was exposed to the works of Belgian, Frans Masreel, and the German, Otto Nuckel. His ideas for a graphic novel were forming.
Soon after returning to the US his first graphic novel Gods' Man was released. Interestingly enough it was published and released the week of the big stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression. It was so successful it was into it's third printing by January of 1930. There were 139 wood engraved images printed on one side of the page only. It explores the life of an artist and price of artist fame. Here are the first few images.

Dover Publications recently published the full unabridged replications of Gods'Man and Ward's second work , Madmans Drum. Tommorow more on Lynd Ward.