Georgetown University Art Collection
Lynd Ward As Illustrator is on view in the Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery on the fifth floor of Georgetown University's Lauinger Library during the Summer 2001 semester.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
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Introduction to the Exhibition
Drawn from the wealth of resources by and about Lynd Ward in Lauinger Library's Special Collections Division, this exhibition focuses on his original designs for book illustrations, primarily those for children. His extensive achievement in the medium of wood engraving, which established his reputation as an illustrator, is a subject we hope to develop in a future exhibition.1 A comprehensive overview of the artist's work in all media was exhibited in the Gunlocke reading room soon after the family decided to donate more than 1,000 works of art as well as most of his personal and business correspondence to the library in the early 1980s. The pieces in the current exhibition, executed in watercolor and a variety of drawing media, reveal Lynd Ward's unique talent as an illustrator, beginning with Prince Bantam (1929) the first of many collaborations with his wife as author, and ending with The Silver Pony (1973), just a few years before ill health caused his retirement from the field.
Background on the Artist
As a young boy growing up in Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, Ward's moral outlook was shaped by the principles of his father, a Methodist minister sympathetic to social causes such as Chicago's Settlement House and the Russian Revolution. His artistic vision was sparked by such picture books as Gustave Doré's Bible illustrations and a story about toys coming to life. These images, preserved in memory, initiated a process of thinking in visual images. This enabled him to create the type of dynamic imagery which could tell a story without the benefit of words. Ward described this process in the article summarized below.
Lynd Ward received his fine arts degree from Columbia University's Teacher's College in 1926, marrying his future collaborator and fellow graduate May McNeer the same year. While honeymooning in Europe they settled in Leipzig where Ward enrolled in the National Academy of Graphic Arts, studying the techniques of printmaking and book design for a year. Some early compositions from this period are preserved in Special Collections, including the penetrating charcoal Self-portrait reproduced here.
He returned to America at a time when book illustration was a relatively open field, and his first story comprised entirely of woodcut images, God's Man, was published in New York in 1929, establishing his reputation as an illustrator when the artist was only twenty-four. God's Man was succeeded by five others in the same genre, all in great demand throughout the Depression years. During this time Ward played an active role in the field of publishing, founding Equinox Press, a cooperative for established figures in the New York book publishing circle. He also was named director of the graphic arts division of the Federal Writers Project in New York City from 1937-39. The publication of a multi-volume edition of Les Misérables in 1938 inaugurated a series of classics Ward produced for George Macy's Limited Editions Club and its trade publication offshoot, the Heritage Press.
Ward returned to the story-in-pictures format later in his career with a trio of picture books: The Biggest Bear (1952), which received the Caldecott Medal, Nic of the Woods (1965), and The Silver Pony (1973), which was distinguished with a Caldecott Honor and the second place selection for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Throughout his successful career spanning five decades, Ward contributed illustrations to more than 100 books for children and adults.
The following synopsis and excerpt is from Ward's article "Making Pictures for a Book," published in the Instructor magazine (August 20, 1953).
When the artist first reads a manuscript for a book, a series of visual images begins to form in his mind. Since an artist thinks in images, he creates something like a "private little movie" that is projected in his head by the words from the manuscript. He then consults with the publisher to find out what kind of book they want to create and in what format, i.e. size, length, number of illustrations, whether they want color or black and white illustrations, etc. The illustrator begins to research the subject so he will be able to create an accurate portrayal. For his book The Biggest Bear, Lynd Ward went to the zoo to observe the behavior of bears, and to the Museum of Natural History to study them in greater detail. For a story on Martin Luther, he turned to the work of Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach for period details and consulted books on costume, architecture and home furnishings of the period.
Once he feels he "knows" the subject, the artist can begin to plan out the illustrations on a number of pieces of paper, cut to the size specified by the publisher, making a rough layout of each page in the book from beginning to end. At this point he begins to revisit the mental pictures stored in his mind's eye since first receiving the manuscript, and making sketches of some of the most important ones, placing the pages where they belong in the sequence of the story. During this stage, he is concerned with showing the development of the main character, and planning the key pages with color illustrations and how certain colors might affect the emotional impact of the story. The final step is to work out each of the rough sketches using watercolor, ink or whatever medium seems best suited to the reproduction process selected by the publisher. In the words of the artist:
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