The City in Woodcuts

The Early 20th Century City in All Its Glory

For some reason, I had always thought that Frans Masereel (1889-1972) was German, because his subject matter seemed to coincide so exactly with German Expressionism’s view of the city, usually Berlin. Actually, he was Flemish, and although he spent time in Germany, he also spent time in France and Belgium. I know him primarily for two wordless graphic novels composed entirely of woodcuts: Passionate Journey (1919) and The City (1925). I have both in my book collection.

I wonder if these woodcut books were created to appeal to those who couldn’t read. In any case, I admire them for their view of life in the city circa 1920.

Symbolic Image of Loneliness in the City

Both wordless novels are (or at least have been) available in reasonably priced paperback editions from Dover Publications.

I have always liked woodcuts as a medium of artistic expression. Masereel is able to convey a story and an overwhelming feeling of being crushed by the multitudes in modern urban life.

Busy Restaurant

After Masereel, the American Lynd Ward (1905-1985) carried on the medium of the wordless novel. There is a two-volume collection of his graphic novels available from Library of America.