God's Man

God's Man

July, 2019
Lynd Ward
Publication Information: 
Rare Book Collection
Call Number: 
NE1215.W3 A43

A new display in the Special Collections Reading Room features works by American illustrator Lynd Ward (1905-1985). Born in Chicago, Ward is said to have decided to pursue a career in art after a teacher pointed out to him that his last name spelled backward is “draw.” In 1926, while studying in Germany, he discovered the wordless novels of Frans Masereel and Otto Nückel. Such works were illustrated with woodcuts inspired by medieval block prints and German Expressionism, and are an important link between the silent films of the early twentieth century and modern graphic novels.

Ward published the first American wordless novel, God’s Man, in 1929. It tells the story of an artist who sells his soul to the devil for a magic paintbrush. Over the next eight years, Ward produced five additional novels in woodcuts, including Madman’s Drum, a tale of a slave trader who steals a demon-faced drum from an African and brings a curse upon his family. Later, Ward illustrated works by other authors, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a copy of which is on display.

The exhibit also explores works by Ward’s contemporary, the noted painter and printmaker Rockwell Kent, who found inspiration in the stark beauty of nature, particularly the Arctic. Like Ward, Kent illustrated his own works as well as classics such as Moby-Dick. Though not as mighty as Melville’s great white whale, a selection of much smaller fish are the subject of illustrations now on view in the main exhibition gallery in conjunction with a talk on July 9 by Hugh Lewis, a founding member of the Wild Fish Conservancy. They include illustrations by British wood engravers Alex Jardine and C. F. Tunnicliffe and original pastel paintings of trout and salmon by British Columbian artist Tommy Brayshaw.

To view additional images of Lynd Ward’s work, visit the Heritage Resources Tumblr page.

Michael Taylor
Special Collections Librarian