Monday, April 1, 2019

THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN WOODCUTS BY JAMES REID

"COULDSN'T NOT THOU WATCH WITH ME
ONE HOUR?"
COPYRIGHT ESTATE OF JAMES COLBERT REID


Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:

A few years ago a friend gave me a book called “The Life of Christ in Woodcuts” by James Reid — per the jacket one of “a host of maverick artists” from the early 20th century who “introduced the idea of the graphic novel, a story told exclusively with wood engravings.”

Originally brought out in 1930, the book was republished in 2009 by Dover Press.

“Glory be to God,” wrote poet Gerard Manley Hopkins for “All things counter, original, spare, strange.” I can hardly think of a better description of the person of Christ, nor of a more eloquent portrayal of that strangeness than that to be found in Reid’s work.

These beautiful, highly accomplished woodcuts make for a deeply moving book. Without using a single word, Reid somehow manages to convey the whole sweep of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. Interestingly, the cuts are not even titled: instead, the book is divided into four sections: “The Infant,” “The Boy,” “The Son of Man” and “The Messiah.”

A sorrow and a deep silence seem to surround Christ, starting in infancy and continuing throughout his exile on earth: the flight into Egypt, the garden of Gethsemane, the deposition before Pilate, the crowning with thorns.

One of my favorite blocks is of Christ as a young man, watching from afar as the other young people are pairing up, walking arm in arm around town.

Though only the back of his head is visible, you can see the idea forming: "Oh, that looks lovely. That is one of the highest callings for a human being, marriage and children! … And somehow … I am meant to live out another mystery"...


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

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