Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lynd Ward

Born June 26, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois
Died June 28, 1985


Lynd Ward was a US graphic artist active from the late 1920's onwards, a particularly pivotal period in both the fields of art as well as children's books. In the field of children's literature there were pioneers and innovators such as Wanda Gag (with whom Ward shared a proclivity for woodblock prints) beginning to carve out a path independent of the traditions of Europe. Other developments included the spread of comics and the first ventures into what we now call a graphic novel. Lynd Ward was not only in the forefront of these trends; he was one of the acknowledged masters.

Ward was born June 26, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois into a religious family. His father, Harry F. Ward, was a Methodist minister and professor. Due to his father's career they lived a number of places during Ward's childhood including Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Ward's childhood health was not all that great. His condition was helped by the summer place that the family maintained in Lonely Lake, Ontario. The freedom of roaming the woods and close interactions with nature and the wild were to show up in his later works.

Ward claimed that he early developed the desire to be an artist based on the realization that the palindrome of his family name was DRAW.

Ward attended Columbia University, graduating in 1926 with a major in fine arts. As so often happens, he left university not only with a degree but with a wife. May McNeer, a fellow student, and Lynd Ward married the week following their graduation. McNeer became a prolific author of some dozens of children's books, twenty-seven of which were illustrated by Lynd Ward. Their marriage and collaborations lasted five decades until his passing in 1985. Following graduation and marriage, the Wards moved to Germany for a year of study at the National Academy of Graphic Arts in Leipzig.

The late twenties were a period of turbulent change in the world at large and the art world in particular. The year the Wards were in Germany in 1926-27 was an interlude of some peace and prosperity; the period was marked by the disastrous hyperinflation at the beginning of the decade, and the increasing stridency and political instability at the end of the decade. During this delicate bubble period there was an effervescence of artistic, cultural and scientific development which would have permeated even to the staid town of Leipzig.

It was in Leipzig that he was first exposed to the ideas and work of Fran Masereel and Otto Nuckel, a Belgian and a German artist respectively, exploring the frontiers of communication and testing the ideas of wordless novels for story telling. For a talented artist at the beginning of a career, a new marriage (and with a return ticket to the US) it must have been an exciting year.

In the US, change was afoot as well. There was, of course, the context of the Great Depression and the New Deal years. But on the artistic frontier, you had artists such as John Held working in woodblocks with strong contrasts in their cartoons. By the thirties you had cartoonists like Charles Addams also working in stark blacks and whites, their humor distinctly morbid in nature. In the field of children's books, Wanda Gag's catalytic Millions of Cats (1929 Newberry Honor), done from woodblocks, appeared in 1929. The late twenties and thirties also saw the rise of a new genre of reading material: comic books. In those early years there was an excitement of possibility - were comic books a new art form? Something for adults or for children? Were comic books a form of subversion?

In 1928, the year after their return, Ward got right down to work and demonstrated the productivity that was to characterize his entire career and produced the first three books of an oeuvre that, over his career, would eventually total some 200 illustrated books; some that he wrote himself and many authored by others. These first three were illustrations of other people's works, including Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde. However, he was already working on his first major novel which was published in 1929, inspired by the ideas of Masereel and Nuckel.

1929, Ward published four more books saw the publication of four more books One of these, Prince Bantam, was the first collaboration between Ward and his wife May McNeer. However, the big event of the year (apart from the stock market crash in October) was the release in November of Gods' Man, a wordless novel illustrated with 139 prints from engraved woodblocks.

Gods' Man is a reasonably traditional variant of the Faustian bargain but its novelty of being entirely without words, breathed a life into it and a positive critical reception, which marked Ward as a new force in the field of art. Five additional wordless novels followed over the next few years. With serious art and the novelty of wordlessness Gods' Man was clearly an event in both the art world and the publishing world. But was it an event in children's literature?

Not really except in hindsight where Wards later work and focus on children's book illustrations make Gods' Man possibly pertinent. It was not published as a child's book and the theme of a Faustian bargain is certainly more of a Young Adult narrative than one for younger children. The wordlessness of the narrative, though, does force us back to first principles. If it is reading that we want to encourage (rather than storytelling), how do wordless stories contribute to the development of reading?

I can see where an argument could be made that wordless stories do in fact help lay the foundations of skills that are in turn critical for the development of good reading capabilities. It is a story with a structured flow that requires sustained attention - one critical capacity. It requires attention to visual detail to support the interpretation of available information to fill in the unstated story - a second critical capacity. It requires an extra dose of imagination over a text-based narrative in that you are creating the narrative yourself with the prompting of the artist/author - a third and especially critical capability.

So are these wordless novels children's stories? No, not really but if you have an older reluctant reader who is challenged by sustaining focus on the narrative flow, is not engaging their imagination in creating the narrative, and who is easily distracted, then these novels can actually be used usefully to those ends.

Outside of the art and publishing worlds though, Ward is really best known for his children's books illustrations; of both his own stories as well as those of many others. He illustrated the works of many classic literary lights (Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Frederick Marryat, Alec Waugh, Thomas Mann, Antoine de Saint Exupery, Wary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Hemingway, R.L. Stevenson, Daniel Defoe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Johann David Wyss, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, William Shakespeare, and Voltaire) as well as contemporary children's authors who were to become classics in their turn (Hildegard Hoyt Swift, Padraic Colum, Esther Forbes, Ann N. Clark, Marguerite Henry, Jean Fritz, and Scott O'Dell).

While his early work was substantially focused on woodblocks, Ward was an extremely versatile artist and worked with techniques and media far beyond woodblocks including, watercolors, oil, lithography, etc. In fact most his children's works are in watercolors and inks rather than woodblocks.

There are three landmark Ward classics that anchor his position amongst children's illustrators 1) The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge , 2) The Biggest Bear, and 3) The Silver Pony. After his wife May McNeer, the next author with whom Ward most frequently collaborated was Hildegard Hoyt Swift. Their first effort was Little Blacknose at the very beginning of Ward's career in 1929 and was followed by five further books over the course of thirty some years. 1942 saw the release of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge which is the story for which Swift is best known and was the first major pylon on which Ward's reputation in children's books has rested. Done in ink washes and colors, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge is a tale of what happens when one technology (an old brick lighthouse in this instance) is apparently supplanted by another (a high bridge with its own light). It is a charming story in itself and engagingly illustrated by Ward and has proved enduringly popular over the years. The fact that the lighthouse was saved and still can be seen in New York adds an element of satisfying veracity to the tale.

It is interesting to note that Lynd Ward was a contemporary of Virginia Lee Burton and their respective careers have elements of tangency. She also started her career in the late 1920's with her first book being published in 1929. Her themes of technological displacement (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel published in 1939), civic action to save a beloved municipal icon (Maybelle the Cable Car published in 1952) and recycling (The Little House published in 1942) are all joined together in Swift and Ward's The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge (1942). Ward and Burton both approached their work by creating the visual story first and only then writing the text to bring the story together, with an objective to use as little text as possible and having the visual illustration carry as much of the story as possible.

The second classic children's story is one which Ward wrote himself, The Biggest Bear, which was published in 1952 and received the 1953 Caldecott Medal. Drawing on his love of the outdoors and his childhood experiences in Lonely Lake, Ontario, Ward tells the tale of a young boy setting out to bag himself a bear skin and ending up with a bigger handful of bear than he anticipated. Part of the strength of this tale, beyond Ward's illustrations, is the sense of pending traumatic disaster with which he imbues the tale and from which he rescues the protagonist and his friend, the bear, at the end. This is a great story for introducing to young children the idea of planning ahead as well as taking responsibility for the consequences of one's own actions. From a narrative and illustration perspective, I highly recommend this story. If you have philosophical grounds for opposing the thought of hunting, the depiction of children with guns, etc. this would not be the book for you.

There is a lesser known third book, The Silver Pony, which achieved critical and popular reception when it was released in 1973. In this story for children, Ward returns to the experiments of his early career when he was writing for adults. The Silver Pony is another wordless book but this time focused on the child as "reader". As with the comments above about his wordless books for adults, The Silver Pony can be an excellent exercise for engaging a child in an unusual exercise and putting them in control of the story. I personally enjoy wordless stories for the opportunity they provide for elaboration of themes, diversions into detail and other acts of customization. That being said, as a parent reading to a child, it is more work. Be prepared.

After a long and hugely productive life, and leaving a number of masterpieces of children's literature still enjoyed by children today, Lynd Ward passed away on June 28, 1985.

Picture Books








The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward Highly Recommended








The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth and illustrated by Lynd Ward Suggested








The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward Highly Recommended








The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward Recommended



Independent Reader








Early Thunder by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Lynd Ward Suggested








Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes and illustrated by Lynd Ward Recommended








Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and illustrated by Lynd Ward Suggested


Young Adult








Gods' Man by Lynd Ward Suggested








Mad Man's Drum by Lynd Ward Suggested



Bibliography

Lola the Bear by Henry Milner Rideout and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1928
The Begging Deer and Other Stories of Japanese Children by Dorothy Rowe and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1928
Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1928
God's Man: A Novel in Woodcuts by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1929
Prince Bantam by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1929
Traveling Shops: Stories of Chinese Children by Dorothy Rowe and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1929
Little Blacknose: The Story of a Pioneer by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1929
Madman's Drum: A Novel in Woodcuts by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Wonder Flights of Long Ago by Mary Elizabeth Barry and P. R. Hanna and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Sir Bob by Salvadore Madariaga and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Midsummer Night by Carl Wilhelmson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Waif Maid by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Faust (limited edition) by Johann W. von Goethe and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Jockeys, Crooks, and Kings by Winfield Scott O'Connor and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Spice and the Devil's Cave by Agnes D. Hewes and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Stop Tim! The Tale of a Car by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Hot Countries by Alec Waugh and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1930
Ching Li and the Dragons by Alice W. Howard and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1931
The Story of Siegfried by Richard Wagner and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1931
"Most Women . . ." by Alec Waugh and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1931
Impassioned Clay by Lleyelyn Powys and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1931
Wild Pilgrimage: A Novel in Woodcuts by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1932
Now That the Gods Are Dead by Llewelyn Powys and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1932
The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1932
A Christmas Poem by Thomas Mann and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1932
Prelude to a Million Years by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1933
The White Sparrow by Padraic Colum and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1933
Southern Mail by Antoine de Saint Exupery and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1933
In Place of Profit: Social Incentive in the Soviet Union by Harry F. Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1933
The Flutter of an Eyelid by Myron Brinig and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1933
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1934
Nocturnes by Thomas Mann and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1934
The Man with Four Lives by William J. Cowen and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1934
An Almanac for Moderns by Donald Culross Peattie and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1935
Topgallant: A Herring Gull by Marjorie Medary and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1935
One of Us: The Story of John Reed by Granville Hicks and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1935
Song without Words by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1936
The Haunted Omnibus by Alexander Kinnan Laing and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1936
Vertigo by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1937
Bright Island by Mabel L. Robinson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1937
A Book of Hours by Donald Culross Peattie and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1937
Story of Odysseus by W. H. D. Rouse and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1937
Birds against Men by Louis J. Halle and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1938
Porpoise of Pirate Bay by F. Martin Howard and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1938
House by the Sea by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1938
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1938
Runner of the Mountain Tops: The Life of Louis Agassiz by Mabel L. Robinson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1939
Beowulf by William Ellery Leonard and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1939
Last Hunt by Maurice Genevoix and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1940
Le Comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1941
Primer of Economics by Stuart Chase and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1941
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1942
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1942
The Sangamon by Edgar Lee Masters and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1942
Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1942
Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1943
Johnny Tremain: A Novel for Old and Young by Esther Forbes and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1943
Journey into America by Donald Culross Peattie and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1943
Moriae Encomium; or, In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1943
The Innocent Voyage by Richard Arthur Warren Hughes and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1944
The Gold Rush by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1944
The Covered Wagon by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1944
Reunion in Poland by Jean Karsavina and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1945
America's Paul Revere by Esther Forbes and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1946
Many Mansions, from the Bible by Jessie Mae Orton Jones and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1947
The Golden Flash by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1947
North Star Shining: A Pictorial History of the American Negro by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1947
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1948
The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1948
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (With Lee Gregori) and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1949
America's Ethan Allen by Stewart Hall Holbrook and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1949
The California Gold Rush by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1950
America's Robert E. Lee by Henry Steele Commager and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1951
Strong Wings by Mabel L. Robinson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1951
John Wesley by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1951
The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
Up a Crooked River by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
Mrs. Wicker's Window by Carley Dawson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
The Story of Ulysses S. Grant by Jeannette Covert Nolan and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
Conquest of the North and South Poles by Russel Owen and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
The Black Sombrero by Nanda Weedon Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1952
The Mexican Story by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1953
Arabian Nights by Padraic Colum and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1953
Martin Luther by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1953
God's Story Book: A First Book of Bible Stories for Little Catholics by and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1953
War Chief of the Seminoles by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1954
The Horn That Stopped the Band by Arthur Hudson Parsons and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1954
Little Baptiste by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1954
Sign of the Seven Seas by Carley Dawson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1954
Santiago by Ann N. Clark and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1955
Dragon Run by Carley Dawson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1955
Explorer's Digest by Leonard F. Clark and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1955
High Flying Hat by Nanda Weedon Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1956
America's Abraham Lincoln by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1957
Armed with Courage by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1957
The Edge of April: A Biography of John Burroughs by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1957
The Canadian Story by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1958
Bible Readings for Boys and Girls by Anonymous and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1959
Gaudenzia: Pride of the Palio by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1960
Brady by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1960
The Alaska Gold Rush by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1960
My Friend Mac: The Story of Little Baptiste and the Moose by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1960
The Wildest Horse Race in the World by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1960
Lord Jim: A Tale by Joseph Conrad and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1960
The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1961
Hi Tom by Nanda Weedon Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1962
From the Eagle's Wing: A Biography of John Muir by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1962
America's Mark Twain by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1962
The American Indian Story by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1963
Give Me Freedom by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1964
Five Plays from Shakespeare by William Shakespeare and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1964
Profile of American History by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1964
Nic of the Woods by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1965
A Peculiar Magic by Annabel Johnson and Edgar Johnson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1965
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1965
Dream of the Blue Heron by Victor Barnouw and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1966
The Wolf of Lambs Lane by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1967
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1967
Early Thunder by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1967
Go, Tim, Go! by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1967
The Secret Journey of the Silver Reindeer by Lee Kingman and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1968
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1970
Stranger in the Pines by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1971
Stories from the Bible by Alvin Presselt and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1971
The Treasure of Topo-el-Bampo by Scott O'Dell and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1972
The Silver Pony: A Story in Pictures by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1973
The Story of George Washington by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1973
Storyteller without Words: The Wood Engravings of Lynd Ward by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1974
Bloomsday for Maggie by May McNeer and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1976
A Relevant Memoir: The Story of the Equinox Cooperative Press by Henry Hart and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1977
Poem upon the Lisbon Disaster by Fran├žois Marie Arouet de Voltaire and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1977
Inner Room by Lynd Ward and illustrated by Lynd Ward 1988




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