1930 self portrait
|Birth name||Lynd Kendall Ward|
June 26, 1905|
Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Died||June 28, 1985
Reston, Virginia, USA
Lynd Kendall Ward (June 26, 1905 – June 28, 1985) was an American artist and storyteller, known for his series of wordless novels using wood engraving, and his illustrations for juvenile and adult books. His wordless novels have influenced the development of the graphic novel. Strongly associated with his wood engravings, he also worked in watercolor, oil, brush and ink, lithography and mezzotint. Ward was a son of Methodist minister and political organizer Harry F. Ward.
Lynd Kendall Ward was born on June 26, 1905, in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Harry F. Ward, was born in Chiswick, England, in 1873; the elder Ward was a Methodist who moved to the United States in 1891 after reading the progressive Social Aspects of Christianity (1889) by Richard T. Ely. He named his son after the rural town of Lyndhurst, located in the south coastal county of Hampshire, where he had lived for two years as a teenager prior to his emigration. Ward's mother, Harriet May "Daisy" Kendall Ward, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1873. The couple met at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, and were married in 1899. Their first child, Gordon Hugh Ward, was born in June 1903, and a third, Muriel Ward, was born February 18, 1907.
Soon after birth, Ward developed tuberculosis; his parents took him north of Sault Ste. Marie in Canada for several months to recover. He partly recovered, and continued to suffer from symptoms of the disease throughout his childhood, as well as from inner ear and mastoid infections. In the hope of improving his health, the family moved to Oak Park, Illinois, where his father became a pastor at the Euclid Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church
Ward was early drawn to art, and decided to become an artist when his first-grade teacher told him that "Ward" spelled backward is "draw". Having skipped a grade, Ward graduated from grammar school a year early in 1918. The family moved to Englewood, New Jersey, and Ward entered Englewood High School, where he became art editor of the school newspaper and yearbook, and learned linoleum-block printing. In 1922, he graduated with honors in art, mathematics, and debate. Ward studied fine arts at Columbia Teachers College in New York. He edited the Jester of Columbia, to which he contributed arts and crafts how-to articles. His roommate arranged a blind date for Ward and May Yonge McNeer (1902–1994) in 1923; May had been the first female undergraduate at the university of Georgia in her freshman year. The two married on June 11, 1926, shortly after their graduation, and left for Europe for their honeymoon.
After four months in eastern Europe, the couple settled in Leipzig in Germany for a year, where Ward studied as a special one-year student at the National Academy of Graphic Arts and Bookmaking (de).[a] He learned etching from Alois Kolb, lithography from Georg Alexander Mathéy (de), and wood engraving from Hans Alexander "Theodore" Mueller; Ward was particularly influenced by Mueller. Ward chanced across a copy of Flemish artist Frans Masereel's wordless novel The Sun[b] (1919), a story told in sixty-three silent woodcuts.
Ward returned to the United States in September 1927, and his portfolio gains the interest of a number of book publishers. In 1928, his first commissioned work illustrated Dorothy Rowe's The Begging Deer: Stories of Japanese Children with eight brush drawings. May helped with background research for the illustrations, and wrote another book of Japanese folk tales, Prince Bantam (1929), with illstrations by Ward. Other work at the time included illustrations for the children's book Little Blacknose by Hildegarde Swift, and an illustrated edition of Oscar Wilde's poem "Ballad of Reading Gaol".
In 1929, Ward was inspired to create a wordless novel of his own after he came across German artist Otto Nückel's Destiny[c] (1926). The first American wordless novel, Gods' Man was published by Smith & Cape that October, the week before the Wall Street Crash of 1929; over the next four years, it sold more than 20,000 copies. He made five more such works: Madman's Drum (1930), Wild Pilgrimage (1932), Prelude to a Million Years (1933), Song Without Words (1936), and Vertigo (1937).
In addition to woodcuts, Ward also worked in watercolor, oil, brush and ink, lithography and mezzotint. Ward illustrated over a hundred children's books, several of which were collaborations with his wife, May McNeer. Starting in 1938, Ward became a frequent illustrator of the Heritage Limited Editions Club's series of classic works. He was well known for the political themes of his artwork, often addressing labor and class issues. In 1932 he founded Equinox Cooperative Press. He was a member of the Society of Illustrators, the Society of American Graphic Arts, and the National Academy of Design. Ward retired to his home in Reston, Virginia, in 1979. He died on June 28, 1985, two days after his 80th birthday.
In celebration of the art and life of this American printmaker and illustrator, independent filmmaker Michael Maglaras of 217 Films produced a new film titled “O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward.” The documentary features an interview with the artist’s daughter Robin Ward Savage, as well as more than 150 works from all periods of Ward's career. The 94-minute documentary, culled from over 7 hours of film and narrated by Maglaras, premiered at Penn State University Libraries, Foster Auditorium, on April 20, 2012, where it was warmly received. Penn State's Special Collections Library has also become the repository for much Lynd Ward material, and may continue to receive material from Ward family collections.
He won a number of awards, including a Library of Congress Award for wood engraving, the Caldecott Medal for The Biggest Bear in 1953 (with a runner-up for America's Ethan Allen in 1950), and a Rutgers University award for Distinguished Contribution to Children's Literature. He also illustrated two Newbery Medal books and six runners-up. In 2011, Ward was listed as a Judges' Choice for The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
Novels in woodcuts
Ward is known for his wordless novels told entirely through dramatic wood engravings. Ward's first work, Gods' Man (1929), uses a blend of Art Deco and Expressionist styles to tell the story of an artist's struggle with his craft, his seduction and subsequent abuse by money and power, and his escape to innocence. Ward, in employing the concept of the wordless pictorial narrative, acknowledged as his predecessors the European artists Frans Masereel and Otto Nückel. Released the week of the 1929 stock market crash, Gods' Man would continue to exert influence well beyond the Depression era, becoming an important source of inspiration for Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg.
Ward produced six wood engraving novels over the next eight years, including:
- Gods' Man (1929)
- Madman's Drum (1930)
- Wild Pilgrimage (1932)
- Prelude to a Million Years (1933)
- Song Without Words (1936)
- Vertigo (1937)
Ward left one more wordless novel partially completed at the time of his death in 1985. The 26 completed wood engravings (out of a planned total of 44) were published in a limited edition in 2001, under the title Lynd Ward's Last, Unfinished, Wordless Novel.
He also produced a wordless story for children, The Silver Pony, which is told entirely in black, white and shades of grey painted illustrations; it was published in 1973.
Gods' Man is a novel in five parts, published in 1929.
(1) An Artist, after returning from a harrowing sea escapade with paintings of the waves and sun, gives his last coin to a one legged beggar by the roadside. He then stops for a bowl of soup at an inn and attempts to pay with one of the paintings, which provokes the wrath of the owner, until a mysterious Stranger, dressed entirely in black, takes the painting, paying an exorbitant amount to the owner. He then offers the Artist a Brush, an easily recognized long brush that was used by the great masters of the ages (shown in montage) and that makes any art made with it (presumably) a masterwork. The Artist is offered a contract, which he eagerly signs.
(2) In the city, the author begins painting with the brush in an empty square, drawing gradually a huge crowd. An auctioneer strikes a handshake deal with the artist, then bids it for an extremely high amount. The artist is given a fancy new tie, a mistress, and a large amount of cash.
(3) The artist falls in love with the mistress, whom he is using as a model, but she reveals wordlessly that she only wants him for his money. Distraught, he leaves and wanders the city canyonlands, seeing everybody he meets as the auctioneer and the Mistress. He attempts to strangle the hallucination in rage, but is beaten by a cop and impounded. The auctioneer takes the remainder of his work and money back. At the last minute, the Artist uses that spiffy tie to strangle a prison guard bringing him food and escape. He now runs from a mob into the hills far from the city, and collapses in a haystack.
(4) He is rescued by the Girl, who is herding goats when she finds him and nurses him back to health. They quickly fall in love and tour a series of natural wonders. After an unclear amount of time, he goes to her, and assists in the birth of his Child. He is exuberant and full of praise at this point.
(5) The Artist, the Girl, and the Child are happy, skipping gaily through fields of heather. At one idyllic family scene, with the gender-unspecified child learning to paint from his/her father, the Mysterious stranger somehow arrives and calls the artist to finish the contract, which was assumedly a portrait of him. The Artist gladly obliges, they go to the hilly crests for the best lighting. During the painting, the Stranger removes his black mask. The Artist has a nasty shock slash heart attack, and appears to fall into the black abyss between the hills. The camera moves onto the stranger, and he is Death, with a skull for a face, who has tricked the Artist into a Faustian Bargain.
In 1930 Ward's wood engravings were used to illustrate Alec Waugh's travel book Hot Countries; in 1936 an edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was published with illustrations by Ward. His work on children's books included his 1953 Caldecott Medal winning book The Biggest Bear, and his work on Esther Forbes' Johnny Tremain.
Ward illustrated the 1942 children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, with text by Hildegarde Swift.
Ward's work included an awareness of the racial injustice to be found in the United States. This is first apparent in the lynching scenes from Wild Pilgrimage and appears again in his drawings for North Star Shining: A Pictorial History of the American Negro, by Hildegarde Hoyt Swift, published in 1947. Ward uses African American characters, as well as several different Native ones in his book The Silver Pony.
In 1941 his illustrations were used in Great Ghost Stories of the World:The Haunted Omnibus, edited by Alexander Laing 
In 1974 Harry N. Abrams published Storyteller Without Words, a book that included Ward's six novels plus an assortment of his illustrations from other books. Ward himself broke his silence and wrote brief prologues to each of his works. In 2010, the Library of America published Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts, with a new chronology of Ward's life and an introduction by Art Spiegelman.
- "Lynd Ward." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Vol. 80. Gale, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 799.
- Link 1984, p. 4; Spiegelman 2010, p. 799.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 800.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 801.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 802.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 803.
- Spiegelman 2010, pp. 803–804.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 804.
- Spiegelman 2010, pp. 804–805.
- Spiegelman 2010, p. 805.
- Cohen 1977, p. 191.
- Allen Ginsberg, Illuminated Poems, illus, Eric Drooker (New York: Four Walls, 1996), xii
- Laing, Alexander, ed. Great Ghost Stories of the World:The Haunted Omnibus Blue Ribbon Books, Garden City, NY 1941
- Cohen, Martin S. (April 1977). "The Novel in Woodcuts: A Handbook". Journal of Modern Literature (Indiana University Press) 6 (2): 171–195.
- Link, Eugene P. (1984). Labor-Religion Prophet: The Times and Life of Harry F. Ward. Westview Press.
- Spiegelman, Art (2010). "Chronology". In Spiegelman, Art. Lynd Ward: God's Man, Madman's Drum, Wild Pilgrimage. Library of America. pp. 799–833. ISBN 978-1-59853-080-3.
- Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize
- Bio at Rutgers University Libraries
- "Silent Beauty" by Christopher Capozzola, In These Times, October 14, 2005
- Columbus Museum of Art Lynd Ward's work Company Town (click on picture for larger version)
- Guide to the Lynd Ward papers at the University of Oregon
- Lynd Ward's illustrations for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- Works by Lynd Ward at Project Gutenberg
- www.artistarchive.com A searchable catalogue listing of over 600 prints by this artist, many with images.
- Comic artist and historian Art Spiegelman interviewed about the significance of Lynd Ward
- Grant F. Scott, "Victor's Secret: Queer Gothic in Lynd Ward's Illustrations to Frankenstein (1934)" Word & Image 28 (April–June 2012): 206-232. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02666286.2012.687545
- Lynd Ward discussed in Conversations from Penn State interview