Fine Cartoon Art

exaggerated, in a good way

Words? Lynd Ward Didn’ Need No Steenkin’ WORDS!

Posted by jtebeau on October 18, 2010

Lynd Ward from "Gods' Man"

I trucked on up to the Whitney Museum one day last spring. Made a special trip of it, too. It’s not every day I amble up the toniest precincts of Madison Avenue, winder-shoppin’ in my jeans and rope-belt. I like the Whitney (all American art, all the time!), and wanted to see what they had going that week. Always there will be some Hopper, and that’s worth the trip alone.

Anyway, it was closed. But NOT the GIFT SHOP! So I did a little book browsing, which, if you’re into that sort of thing, can be about as good as spending a couple of hours at a museum.

I happened upon a book about “wordless novels,” a trend in publishing from the first half of the 20th century. They were usually illustrated in a classic woodcut style and often told a story of the Common Man. Lots of melodrama, class inequity, despair, revelation, redemption, etc. A friend had recently given me two books by one of the featured artists, Lynd Ward (1905 – 1985), who illustrated a couple hundred books in his day, winning a Caldecott Medal for children’s book illustration in 1953.

His book Gods’ Man is mesmerizing, the tale of artistic integrity and the price paid to achieve it. If you look at no other work by Ward, check that one out at least.

from "Gods' Man"


So there’s a little about Mr. Ward for you. I’m inspired to write this post due to a new collection of Ward’s work released this month by the Library of America and edited by Art Spiegelman. The Times ran an excellent review of the two-volume set by Steven Heller, and it inspired me to do this little write up on Ward and re-read Gods’ Man. Excuse me: re-look.


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