Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lynd Ward in the '60s: Part 1

Even in Lynd Ward's day the average fee for illustrating an entire book made wood engraving a financially unfeasible technique. In such cases, not surprisingly, Ward turned to other speedier techniques and materials. As mentioned in yesterday's post, among those Ward had a natural affinity for, pen and ink drawing was a favourite.


This series, reprinted in a 1963 issue of Children's Digest magazine (from a book published a year earlier) demonstrates again Ward's versatility and skill.


I'll leave you to study and enjoy these attractive pictures and mention only to take note of Ward's pleasing compositions, greatly enhanced by the use of just one spot colour over black and white.













Ward illustrated several children's books written by his wife, May McNeer. The writer's credit on this story, however, is for Nanda Ward, Lynd's daughter. Lynd and Nanda co-created at least two other books that I could find; The Black Sombrero (1952)...


... and The High Flying Hat (1956).


Monday, February 27, 2012

Lynd Ward on "side-tracking the human tendency to fall into ruts"

Not all of Lynd Ward's wood engravings were done for books - he did on occasion work for advertising and editorial clients.


One memorable late 1940s series of ads was commissioned by the U.S. Pipe and Foundry Company and resulted in Ward's inclusion in the 1947 and '48 NY Art Director's Annuals.



Ward also worked in other media besides wood engraving. That labour intensive process wasn't always ideal for every assignment - nor was Ward averse to working in paint, pencil and ink. Here are a few early 1950s pieces by Lynd Ward from Collier's magazine.


Ward said, "Although I have a special fondness for wood engraving, I would not want to limit myself to that one medium alone."


"Working in materials such as watercolor, oil, lithography and brush drawing in black and white has an important effect on my work in wood when I return to it after a sojourn with a less obdurate medium."


"It is partly a matter of side-tracking the human tendency to fall into ruts - in the way we think, in the way we solve our problems of both subject matter and rendering."


"It is also a matter, I believe, of being challenged to try to get in wood some of the freer qualities of the more easily manipulated materials."


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lynd Ward's Woodcuts

As with some others who seem to straddle the line between fine and commercial art, Lynd Ward stakes out his own distinct territory in the illustrative landscape. His best known work, which is easily found all over the Internet, is from the 1930s.

Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for "Prelude to a Million Years" 1933

Ward studied design theory and art history at Columbia University, followed by an eight month stint at the Academy of Graphic Arts in Leipzig where he learned the technical aspects of book structure and design. Upon his return, now armed with both a practical and theoretical understanding of art (not to mention a tremendous degree of natural ability and ambition) Ward set to work executing the blocks for the first wood-cut novel ever published in America, "God's Man."


This wordless, semi-autobiographical novel released in 1929 was followed by five others - "Mad Man’s Drum" (1930), "Wild Pilgrimage" (1932), "Prelude to a Million Years" (1933), "Song Without Words" and "Vertigo" (1937). They established Ward's reputation with the book publishing industry as a highly regarded specialist.


Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for "Prelude to a Million Years" 1933

During the next twenty-five years Lynd Ward produced "God's Man" he engraved nearly a thousand wood blocks(!) constantly working at perfecting his technique and design sensibility. Its easy to imagine he must have influenced many other artists as well.


Here are a few Lynd Ward plates from Thomas Shahan's wonderful Lynd Ward Flickr set. I encourage you to click through and peruse the more than thirty scans Thomas has archived.

Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for "Song Without Words" 1936

Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for "Song Without Words" 1936

Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for "Vertigo" 1937

Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for Alec Waugh's "Most Women..." (1931)

Lynd Ward - Wood Engraving for Alec Waugh's "Most Women..." (1931)

In the midsts of his series of "wordless novels" Lynd Ward also produced one of his most famous works; the 1934 illustrated edition of Mary Shelley's Frankensein.


One plate, reproduced below, was included in a March 1955 article on Ward in American Artist magazine...


... but you'll find many more, scanned at a good large size from an original edition at (The book is also available in a reprint edition on

When searching online, its perhaps not surprising that Lynd Ward's woodcut engravings dominate most search results. They are visually striking, to say the least, and the fact so much of this work has been reprinted suggests there is a modern audience willing to pay for affordable editions of what would otherwise be rare and expensive out-of-print books.

But as a matter of personal taste, Lynd Ward's woodcuts have always left me a little cold. Happily (for me, anyways) there is another side to Ward's work - one less well known. This week I'd like to share some of that other Lynd Ward work with you. We'll begin... tomorrow.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Denis Bishop and the Art of Mechanized Warfare

We end this week within striking distance of where we began, with a host of beautifully illustrated machinery, most of it from the military realm.



Although these illustrations present their subjects in a far more reserved manner than did the model kit box art we looked at on Monday and Tuesday, there's no denying the understated artistry in Denis Bishop's renderings of these historical vehicles and machines.


More than a few friends who previewed these scans said Bishop's style brought to mind the work of Ken Dalison. I have to agree.



Since all of these books were published in the early '70s, when Dalison was "making his mark" in automotive magazines, perhaps he was an influence on Denis Bishop.




No info about the artist seems to be available anywhere online.


Many thanks to my friend Bill Peckmann, who bought these books back in the '70s and kept them through all these years, and then dug them up and scanned them for us.




Perhaps, as has happened so many times before, just posting these and Denis Bishop's name will lead to someone familiar with the artist getting in touch and telling us more.

Meanwhile, here's one last visual treat to perk up your weekend... Bill Peckmann wrote, "The cover of the Denis Bishop book I sent you had a WW 1 carrier pigeon truck on the cover."


"Well, when the book came out in 1970, I gave Rowland Wilson a copy of it, along with a joking dare. The off-handed dare was that he would be able to use that truck in a gag cartoon. I never thought he would be able to do it. Viola!"


Many thanks Bill! You'll find many more beautiful Rowland B. Wilson cartoons at Michael Sporn's Blog, also courtesy of Bill Peckmann.