Friday, 15 July 2011

Graphic Passions: The First Graphic Novels

A few weeks ago, examining wares in a "second-hand" shop in St Just with The Big Sis.... a framed panel of prints catches my eye.

Because I'm sure that I know that work... bold, black and white woodcuts - stark, expressionist ...

I peer closer and see that the "prints" are in fact pages from a book, glued onto a backing board: 1920s street scenes, nightclub scenes. In the corner of each page are the initials FM. And I'm sure I know whose work it is, Belgian woodcut artist Frans Masereel .

I'm interested in his work because, in a way, he became the father of the graphic novel - from the 1920s onwards he published his woodcuts in book form as "novels without words".

I agonise over the framed pages which I now guess to be from a book called "The City" or rather "Die Stadt". But I decide to do a little research. Maybe the books are still available to buy? And they are. That wonderful reprint publisher, Dover, has several titles available.

But my researching eye is also caught by an anthology put together by Canadian woodcut artist George A Walker. Because it was George A Walker's own very excellent printmaking book: "The Woodcut Artist's Handbook" that introduced me to Masereel's work. Walker has compiled an anthology of the work of four printmakers who made "novels without words": Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri, and Laurence Hyde. This anthology is called "Graphic Witness", published by Firefly Books. And I think I might just have to get myself a copy.

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