Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Absorbing Art from Newspapers

The illustrated newspapers called The Illustrated London News, The Graphic, and The Sphere provided the first art education to young artists growing up in Europe a little over a century ago.

Above: “Mothers Leaving Their Babies at the Foundling Hospital,” from the Illustrated London News. Image via Foundling Museum.

According to author and art historian Brian Kane, “Delacroix, Vernet, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and many other prominent artists contributed to illustrated newspapers. The influence of these graphic journalists was extensive.”

Mr. Kane makes the following observations:
1. The Van Gogh Museum alone maintains a collection of over 1,500 pages, which where amassed from various illustrated newspapers by Vincent and his brother Theo. Van Gogh wanted to be a graphic journalist. There are even samples of a few of his attempts at illustrations in the Van Gogh Museum. In his letters, Van Gogh also mentions Vierge a couple times.
2. Some of the world’s first comic strips, illustrated by Swiss schoolmaster Rodophe Topffer (1799-1846), were first published in L’Illustration in the 1840s.
3. The Illustrated London News’ Yokohama-based news correspondent, illustrator, and humorist Charles Wirgman (1832-1891) laid the groundwork for Japanese manga in 1862 with his self-published The Japan Punch.

Brian Kane continues:
“Until now, no one has had a good explanation as to the proliferation of artists in the mid-late 19th century. My theory, and as far as I know I'm the only one who has thought of this, is that the illustrated newspapers in England, Germany, and especially France became the first art primers for the middle class.

From the 1840s on, publications such as L'Illustration and The Illustrated London News were treasure troves of mass market art. Images of wars, floods, festivals, fine arts paintings, heads of state, foreign lands -- all of contemporary visual culture a child could ever want -- arrived in their homes weekly.

Since art was not taught in the primary schools, young artists would learn about art by copying images from the papers, just as you and I learned to draw from copying our favorite comics.”

In his book the Prince Valiant Companion, Brian Kane makes the case for Prince Valiant’s origins in the illustrated press.
Brian Kane's books for Fantagraphics. Thanks, Brian


Don Cox said...

"Until now, no one has had a good explanation as to the proliferation of artists in the mid-late 19th century."

I think the main cause would be the development of wood engraving techniques - especially the skilled craftsmen. A wood block is the same height as metal type and can be printed with the type. Steel engravings and lithographs have to be printed on separate sheets of paper.

Later on, there was the development of stereotypes, allowing wood blocks to be cloned in metal for long print runs; and then, in the 1880s, the photographic process for reproducing pen and ink drawings directly on copper.

Anonymous said...

My father has a largish collection of LIN books, and there are indeed a great number and variety of wonderful illustrations/engravings contained therein.

Marc Tellier said...

Interesting post!

>>>>>Van Gogh also mentions Vierge a couple times.

Daniel Vierge was really an awesome artist of that era.

Amazing spontaneous strokes and impressive "Vignetting" compositions.


Mr. Wales said...

Though it isn't manga as we think of it today, the first volume of the Hokusai manga was published in 1814. At that time, manga as a term meant "casual sketches" more than sequential art.

Unknown said...

I think saying that it laid the ground for japanese Manga is an exaggeration, Japan had emakimono, illustrated stories painted on scrolls, from way back.

Unknown said...

I do not deny that various forms of illustrated art existed in Japan prior to Wirgman, but his impact cannot be denied. The Japanese loanword, ponchi-e, or "Punch-pictures," is directly attributed to "The Japan Punch," and became that language’s first word for cartoon. -B. Kane

tayete said...

I remember reading in a sci-fi book (I am afraid I cannot remember its name), how an artist that traveled to the past (the year when the Statue of Liberty was installed) drew a sketch for a miss he liked. She didn't seem to understand the sketch, as he had drawn it in "modern style", that is, no crosshatching, just lines and such.
Then he remembered how people of that age were so used to newspaper sketches and drawings, that they couldn't "vision" well his drawing, it meant nothing to them.
Adding some crosshatching and values made it, and he finally got the girl (happy end - tachaaaan)

JP said...

There are kids out there reading online comics, looking at videogame magazines with concept art in them, watching cartoons, and animations with the same intentions as these 19th century artists-to-be. Art training, at least my experience in California, is not very strong. Most serious art classes start at the community college level or later. There are exceptions of course.

I can say with out a doubt that some of the best times of my life were spent reading Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side by the fireplace as a boy. There was also a very large book of political cartoons that I found at my public school library. It had drawings with a style I had never seen and a wit I only sometimes understood, but admired. I wanted to do what these people did. Later I discovered Winsor McCay, and I thought I found the holy grail.

Anonymous said...

My first recollection of art, of being gobsmacked with it, is from a book of biblestories my parents had (published somewhere in the twenties or thirties, I think, but possibly older). Each page had a story and an illustration, a beautiful copperplate etching. Ah, the drama, and the 'nobleness' of those characters! I pored over that book as much as I could, and was praised for my piety, but I was a little sceptic, even at that age. I just loved the illustrations :-)

And then came librarybooks with their illustrations. One of the illustrators that still stick in my mind is Dick de Wilde. Wonderful! And of course the incomparable Rien Poortvliet (he illustrated the famous 'Lotje' series, as well as the 'Pim, Frits en Ida' books, which we read at school. Those illustrations were in black and white, I until this day I still love to draw with pen and ink. The cleanness of the lines, the exact curves... I never copied them, but I wanted to draw *like that*.

Later, of course, the graphic novels (although these were in colour) of giants like Jean van Hamme (Thorgal!), Don Lawrence (Trigie!) and Anreas (Rork!)

But it all started with those copperplate biblestories.

James Gurney said...

Tayete, I think the book you're talking about is by Jack Finney, "Time and Again," (1970).

J.P.Balmet, I agree--Pat Oliphant's cartoons had a huge impact on me as a kid.

Shirley Hughes, the great children's book illustrator said in her memoir that she was always aware that her illustrations might be the only hand-made art in a child's home environment, and she realized how much responsibility that gave her.

tayete said...

That's the book! "Ahora y siempre" was translated to Spanish.