In the 1926 foreword to the Flemish artist Frans Masereel’s (1889 – 1972) “Passionate Journey” Thomas Mann wrote, “today, as it did five hundred years ago, this type of image requires nothing but a piece of peartree-wood, a small knife–and a man’s genius.”
How true. While the age of digital information and technology, has made it possible for many to pursue new media for art, staying power, as always, is defined, not by technology or medium of expression, but the effective communication. On that note, Mansreel, was an anti-war artist, in the likes of Goya, Capa and others. With a personal interest in the subject of the art of war, I am never sure if artistic expression of war – really contributes to social change.
Thanks for postingg this
I am reading “Understanding Comics” by Scott Mc Cloud when I came across names such as Lynd Ward and Frans Masareel. Haven,t read any of their novels but their art work certainly had inspired me.
Nice site. I’m a fan of Masereel – especially his novels in woodcuts. I have a website on another woodcutter, Helen West Heller, you might enjoy at:
I ordered a book that has 4 “wordless” novels and includes Lyn Ward – I was very intrigued by Lyn Ward – and am looking forward… I guess my question was if art can bring about social change (not political) – i.e. have artists influenced how we think or perceive war – has it influenced people to question war or stand up against it – well it pbrings to mind – the postman in “Il Postino” who is influenced by Neruda to join the resistance, in which he is eventually killed.
I love Masereel’s work, or the what I know of it. The Passionate Journey is all I’ve ever seen, although Wikipedia sez he did over 20 others. I’ve often wondered about the size of the original. The one i have is quite small and as such i think it works beautifully. The diminutive size adds to the message somehow.
Also worth noting, in the novel-in-woodcuts vein, is the american illustrator Lynd Ward. He did a handful of wood cut novels in the 20s and 30s, several of which are available from Dover, i think. God’s Man and Madman’s Drum are both quite stunning. In the modern camp, check out (if you haven’t yet) Eric Drooker’s gorgeous scratchboard work in Flood. Drooker was strongly influenced by both Maserell and Ward.
As to the question of art for social change, it is rare for a single artistic vision or statement to have any influence on the guys who hold the reins of power. It does happen now and then, but it is rare. Thomas Nast is often cited for being instrumental in the downfall of the crooked NY politician Boss Tweed, however the Tammany Hall political machine survived both Tweed and Nast and continued to wield power and influence for another century. However, images can be emblematic of ideas and can carry great force in communicating and capturing the zeitgeist of the moment. So artists can have impact if not influence. And that is important.