Sunday, May 22, 2011

THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN WOODCUTS: JAMES REID




A few years ago a friend gave me a book called The Life of Christ in Woodcuts by James Reid--one of  "a host of maverick artists" from the early twentieth century" who "introduced the idea of the graphic novel, a story told exclusively with wood engravings." (from the back jacket).

Originally brought out in 1930, the book was republished in 2009 by Dover Press. Without using a single word, Reid manages to convey the whole story of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection. One of my favorite cuts is when Christ was a young man and the other young people are pairing up, walking arm in arm around town, and he is watching from afar, and you can see the idea forming in his head...Oh that looks like so much fun. That looks really, really great! And somehow...that is not going to be for me....


Anyway, these are beautiful woodcuts and a moving book. Fellow wood engraver/graphic novelist Lynd Ward (1905-1985) apparently did a book called Vertigo--a subject that, if you have any feel for either, seems very much connected to the life of Christ....

12 comments:

  1. I open up my Magnificat this morning and the meditation for the day is "The Way, The Truth, The Life" by someone named Heather King: "Heather King is a convert to Catholicism and a writer from California." Imagine that. Made my day.

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  2. Thanks Kevin for the tip, I opened up the Magnificat application on my iphone and read this great Meditation by Heather. Too cool. Pax Christi

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  3. Thanks, Kevin and Tim--I knew one or two of my reflections were gonna be in Magnificat at some point but I was surprised, too!
    Timmay--the Windom Peewee stories were PRIMO! Email me your mailing address when you get a chance, if you could, I couldn't read your writing...

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  4. Dover Publishers is a gift, as is Magnificat Magazine. I'm kind of relieved I wasn't raptured up yesterday, or I would have missed this blog post (including the comments) and all the good stuff it led off to. I adore woodcuts (Ade Bethune, Gwen Raverat, Fritz Eichenberg and now James Reid) and the meditation in Magificat helped me to remember that as hard as it is to be a human being, it's the only Way.

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  5. What a great meditation in the Magnificat. Your writing always touches my heart. Thank you.

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  6. I fisrt came across Reid in the Introduction of the book, Graphic Witness published by Firefly Books in 2007. It is a collection of work by four artists who made significant contributions to the wordless graphic novel genre; Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri and Launence Hyde. I was fortunate to pick it up uesed but in mint condition for seven messley dollars.

    A book like this and the one you note by Reid is something an e-reader cannot treat with justice.

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  7. oh cool, Owen, someone else who has come across Reid! I was amazed at how deeply moving those woodcuts were in The Life of Christ. He really got across Christ's profound emotional and spiritual sensitivity, which is one reason, maybe the main reason, why the Crucifixion was so infinitely horrible...and yeah, I can't quite imagine the woodcuts would carry the same force on an e-book...good to hear from you, thanks.

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  8. My seven dollar copy, brand new condition, arrived and I have been enjoying it very much. My own lowly drawings continue here :)

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  9. The Life of Christ is a great little book. James Reid also did Song of Songs. The Vertigo comment is in error as that book was done by one of the kings of the woodcut novel, Lynd Ward. Ward created 6 during his lifetime, Vertigo being the last.

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  10. Right you are, thanks for that--Vertigo came up on a google image search under Reid and I didn't follow up carefully enough. Will correct that right away!

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  11. Thanks for the pics. I was contacted by the grandson today with the intentions of reproducing the book as a loose portfolio from Reid's original wood engraving blocks and your blog popped up on a google search while I was discussing it with him.

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  12. Oh lovely, Chad, hope your project comes to fruition. More people should know about Reid's amazing woodcuts. Thanks for checking in...

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