Der Weg der Menschen (review: 3/5)

Frans Masereel’s book first appeared in 1964 under the title “Route des Hommes.” The 60 woodcuts in this book came forty years after the others I reviewed. From what I can piece together from the French and German sources that I can’t read, I think maybe it was connected with of some kind of exhibition or retrospective. Who knows.
The style is much more loose and slashing, not quite as tidy as the earlier works. Taking on a larger, broader story, the panels also become more thematic. There’s a lot more abstract icons embedded in the pictures. Panels are less explicitly connected to the ones on the previous pages. Characters don’t really carry over from scene to scene, but the ideas accrete and overlap over a series of page turns.

[update: images removed for copyright complaint from Verwertungsgesellschaft Bild-Kunst. so it goes.]

Here’s the opening, with its huddled masses:
Later we get to the expressionist bits.
Sturm und drang. I love this one.
Masereel’s omnipresent, beckoning sun.
A rare pastoral scene.
The space age.

I’m out of Masereel books now, so this is the end of the Masereel Appreciation Festival. Previous installments included a tidbit from L’Idee, Masereel in Film, and selections from Die Stadt and Die Sonne.

Frans Masereel in Film

As I continue the Frans Masereel Appreciation Week Festival, here’s an animated film adaptation of L’Idee. Berthold Bartosch had Frans Masereel’s help on the film for some of the two years he spent working on it. The end result is almost a half-hour long, and though it starts a bit slowly, there are some legitimately cool effects considering the crude tools available in 1930.
A couple other bonus points: the movie was scored by Arthur Honegger (who’s best known for Pacific 231), and the soundtrack features an ondes martenot—possibly the first-ever use of an electronic instrument in film.

According to that first link, Bright Lights After Dark, Masereel’s work in Die Stadt (my brief review of Die Stadt) was also a big influence on Walter Ruttmann‘s hour-long silent film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Gro?├╝stadt. More about Die Sinfonie at Wikipedia and shorter clips available on YouTube.

Die Stadt (review: 3.5/5)

Another set of woodcuts from Frans Masereel (last Friday I took a look at Die Sonne). Die Stadt was first published in 1925. The impressions of war-torn Europe cover the range of everyday life: the birth of a child, a man with a prostitute, parents with their children, medical students at the morgue, street scenes both peaceful and violent. They are almost all dense with the detail and distractions that cities offer. You can see the full set of images from Die Stadt at Graphic Witness. These are some of the woodcuts that I particularly enjoyed…
[update: images removed due to copyright complaint from from Verwertungsgesellschaft Bild-Kunst. no more free publicity—good luck finding it]

If you look at this image in the original size, you can see the faces of the men walking about. With just a few cuts here and there, he managed to make them unique with mustaches, beards, long noses, weak chins. Most of them are in profile, which probably helps.

I like the perspective in this one, monstrous city receding but growing taller.

Different architecture for each walk-up. Sunlight filtering through the trees.

This one is probably my favorite overall. A slight curve in the edges gives this incredible softness to her skin and clothing. Really amazing.

Die Sonne (review: 4/5)

A man chases the sun through city, sky, and sea in this wordless story by Frans Masereel. Here’s my favorite sequence from Die Sonne:
[update: images removed due to copyright complaint from Verwertungsgesellschaft Bild-Kunst. no more free publicity—you’ll have to trust me that it’s worth your time]

Take a look at some other woodcuts from Die Sonne. This is the first of four Masereel books that I recently picked up at the Emory library. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the others over the next week or two.