Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frans Masereel's La ville - Coda #2










1. illustration for Roland de Marès' book La Belgique Envahie (Belgium invaded), George Cres & Co., 1915; as published in Frans Masereel (Kunst und Gesellschaft - art and co. -, 1990); Frans Masereel's early, more detailed, style: it was in Switzerland, where Masereel lived (1916 - 1922), that his Expressionist graphic style flourished;
2. image from "Les morts parlent," (the dead talk) as published in Holzschnitte gegen den Krieg (woodcuts against the war) Insel-Verlag, 1989 [Les Tablettes - the tablets -, 1917]); Masereel's Anti-Capitalism dully explains his Pacifism (and vice-versa); WWI was, in his view, just a squaring of accounts among Capitalists; I fully agree with him: poor people die in rich people's wars, that's all...; all other considerations are just well orchestrated lies; "Les morts parlent" is a a dance macabre, a totentanz, a dance of death;
3. the last page of Frans Masereel's most celebrated book: Mon livre d'heures (A. Kundig, 1919)... as published in Passionate Journey (Penguin Books, 1987); I fully agree with Nick Mullins on this one: "Passionate Journey is still an important work and it's a fun romp that celebrates life while thumbing it's nose at authority. However, The City gives us a broader and deeper look at the human experience.": ;
4. image from Grotesk Film as published in Grotesk Film (Nautilus, 1996 [J.B. Neumann, 1920]); a great portrait of greed;
5. image from La ville (Albert Morancé, 1925) as published in The City (Schoken Books, 1988); over the factory's main entrance (and in other parts of the city linked to entertainment) Masereel drew concentric circles denoting the spread of light, but also connoting an hypnotist's disk (only alienation prevents blue color workers from revolting against exploitation);
6. Place Pigalle in Paris (detail): painting done in 1925 (La ville's year of publication); the disks, again...;
7. an elliptical suicide as published in Von Schwarz zu Weiss (from black to white; Zweitausendeins - two thousand and one -, 1989 [Du noir au blanc, Verlag Oprecht, 1939]);
8. WWII inspired a new totentanz (in Masereel's "white style," this time): image (detail) from Dance Macabre (Büchse der Pandora - Pandora's box -, 1981 [Herbert Lang, 1941]);
9. Die Passion eines Menschen's (one man's passion) last page as published by Zweitausendeins, 1989 (Images de la passion d'un homme, self-published, 1918); if you claim for justice: they fire at you in a dictatorship, you get fired in a democracy...

1 comment:

Daniel C. Parmenter said...

While it's true that Passionate Journey doesn't give as broad a view of the human experience, I still like it better than The City simply because it works better as a narrative. Thomas Mann's introduction that appears in many (most?) versions of the book points out that it can be read as a kind of film; indeed, it's surprising that Masereel has less fame among movie buffs than among comics fans. The early parts of the story seem very much like stills from a silent movie to me. The City seems more like a series of vignettes, with less flow from image to image and page to page.

My only real issue with Passionate Journey is that Masereel seemed to run out of steam towards the end and went a bit off the deep end into the realm of pure fantasy with our hero talking to animals in the jungle, etc.

But I still love it. I found it completely by chance - my dad picked it up as a cheap remainder and handed it to me saying perhaps you might like this (he no longer remembers this by the way) and it quickly became an all-time favorite.