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Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde Paperback – Sep 14 2007

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The wordless novels reproduced in this book were created using relief-printing techniques. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
What relief Oct. 4 2007
By wiredweird - Published on
Format: Paperback
These four graphic novels cover a range of relief printmaking techniques: woodcut, linocut, and wood engraving. They cover a range of styles, as well: Masereel's Expressionism, Ward's delicate linework on bold figures, Patri's crisp realism, Hyde's detailed primitivism. And, although they cover very different eras and stories, they all end in pessimism about people's treatement of people.

Masereel's story is the most ambiguous. His imagery has least in the way of explicit continuity and the most in dramatic contrasts. Masereel makes it clear, however, that the urban world has dozens of ways to chew people up and spit them out. Ward's "Wild Pilgrimage" tries to escape an urban hell, but finds rural America is no better. It includes a lynching early on, an ugly blot from the country's not-so-distant past. Patri's "White Collar" conveys the hopeless of The Depression, a world where no amount of hard work can be enough to make ends meet. Finally, Hyde's "Souther Cross" brings us up to the atomic age, examining one of the human costs of 50s-era nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Walker's collection reminds us that the graphic novel, as we know it today, drew from many sources. On one hand, comic strip culture evolved upwards through generations of comics towards today's graphic novels, and now presents very mature works by contemporary writers. In the other direction, fine art printing found itself too constrained by the single image. It needed plots, not just snapshots. As a result, it's easy for today's reader to appreciate these moving graphic series - and maybe easier, when that reader learns about the persecutions and McCarthy-eras black-balling of some of these artists and their works.

-- wiredweird
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Pure Gold in Black and White March 18 2008
By James F. Murphy - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a long-time collector of woodcut novels, I am overjoyed to see the republishing of these gems. In this one very reasonably priced volume, you get a great introduction to this little known art form. If you have an interest in art history, early-to-mid 20th century political movements, art deco style, or if you simply enjoy good stories, you'll love this book. You really do not need an interest in modern-day graphic novels to appreciate these works (I don't). If you do have an interest in graphic novels, get this book, and learn some family history of the art.

Each of these books (four books for the price of one!) takes a slice of the artist's contemporary life and then explores the timeless conditions of humankind. Masereel was profounding affected by World War I and the European chaos between the wars, so his art addresses social conditions, including the urbanization of society, during those years. Ward and Patri were also affected by their times -- so the hardship and civil unrest brought on by the Great Depression and the trade union movement is the background for their stories here. Ward also presciently treats the rise of nazism in his other woodcut novels.

Patri's "White Collar" in particular is a real find, because this story is not readily available in any other form, as far as I know. Finally, Hyde's story was printed in 1951, and he addresses the first man-made weapon of mass destruction, the A-bomb, and its effect on the environment of the South Seas.

This book also gives a good sampling of the art of the woodcut novel, over time. The earliest is Masereel's work of 1918, and his figures have the least detail, and thus lack an ability to communicate nuance in the characters. Ward's work, is highly detailed, in a distinctive art deco style (akin to the work of Rockwell Kent) and I find more enjoyable.

To fully appreciate all these works, you need to spend some time with them on a second and third "read." It takes only a few minutes to go through each story, which is all it takes to get a general understanding of the story. However, upon rereading, and studying the figures, you will probably come to a different understanding of the story. Without words, there is a lack of precision, so your life experience and imagination will fill in the blanks.

Congratulations to the publisher (Firefly Books) for preserving this important art form, and making it accessible at a very reasonable price. Kudos!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great works deserve a great introduction March 3 2011
By Karl Janssen - Published on
Format: Paperback
Woodcut novels are a rare and beautiful art form that have been underappreciated for far too long. Thankfully in recent years some of these classic "graphic novels" have been rescued from obscurity and given the proper respect they deserve. This collection features four great works created from 1918 to 1951.

Frans Masereel is the European pioneer of the genre. His art exhibits the jagged simplicity of German Expressionism, and his storytelling is correspondingly disjointed and ambiguous. Lynd Ward is the American master, embodying the true apex of the art form. (The Library of America recently published an edition of his complete works.) His prints are beautifully detailed with intricate line work, and his narrative likewise displays complexity and depth. Canadian artist Laurence Hyde provides the most beautiful art in the book, combining the stark gravity of Masereel with the nuance of line and tone found in Ward's work. Italian-American artist Giacomo Patri supplies the weakest piece in the collection. His art, in both its conception and execution, is really not in the same league as the other three, but his story provides a valuable glimpse into life during the Great Depression. If there's a common thread among the four works, it is a stand against social injustice. No less than three of the works feature workers rising up against their oppressors, with mixed results.

The only reason I'm not giving this book five stars is because I was disappointed by the thirty-odd pages of text that accompany the art. The preface and introduction by Walker, and the afterword by Seth provide only a couple paragraphs of biographical information on each artist, with some very general comments on how these novels expressed the political realities of their time and how woodcut novels were the precursors to today's graphic novels. To this I say, "Duh." I would have preferred more detailed biographies and more on the history of woodcut novels in general.
Graphic Witness May 2 2014
By Lori Diane Varecka - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My son bought Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels for one of his college classes. It served it's purpose for his class.
Four Early Graphic Novels May 7 2012
By las cosas - Published on
Format: Paperback
An excellent introduction to early graphic novels. First, the publisher has not stinted on the production of the book. Thick paper stock was used, the page size is large and the paperback was sown, not glued. There is also a helpful introduction by George Walker. The four complete novels included in this volume are wordless graphic novels created using various relief-printing techniques. Mr. Walker provides information on the four novelists, but more importantly explains the printing techniques used by each novelist, including the tool used to make the various types of engravings. The feel of each novel is quite distinct from the others, and by providing the reader with a short technical background of the various techniques used, the reader can appreciate not only the novels themselves, but also the stylistic quirks and strengths of each book.

I thought the storyline of Laurence Hyde's Southern Cross was simplistic and uninteresting, but the individual engravings were fascinating. My favorite wordless graphic novel author is Lynd Ward, and his Wild Pilgrimage is included. I have this as part of the Library of America Lynd set, but I was happy to have it included in this much larger format with considerably better paper. The other two novels included are Frans Masereel's The Passion of a Man and Giacomo Patri's White Collar. Patri was the only artist whose work I was unfamiliar with, and the storyline of his book is by far the strongest of the four. A haunting reminder that the gap between middle class and homelessness is often only as wide as one bout of bad luck.