Arthur Wragg (1903-1976) was an artist, illustrator and social commentator using Christianity as his lens. In the 30s he conceived and illustrated Psalms for Modern Life. This book highlighted the poverty, unemployment and depression that had grown in the Britain since the end of the First World War. Psalms for Modern Life was followed in 1935 by Jesus Wept (see more next week on the Daily Heller) another strong critique of war mongering. In light of President Trump’s plans to have a military parade in Washington, D.C., this is still timely.
In 1939 Thy Kingdom Come Wragg powerfully stated that “I told you so” in his introduction to this extraordinary book. In his introduction, despite the infamous Munich appeasement, he addresses the sabre rattling leading up to the Second World War.
At the end of the war in 1945 he also wrote, designed and illustrated The Lord’s Prayer in Black and White. This series of books are a remarkable insight into the depression between the two wars, the build up to war and the social issues of the time. Arthur Wragg is one of those rare artists who used his skill to comment, raise awareness and make change wherever he could.
Wragg was born near Manchester and studied at Sheffield School of Art from about 1916. In London he worked as a magazine illustrator, contributing to Nash’s Magazine, Sunday Magazine, Woman’s Journal, Woman’s Pictorial and others. However, he is perhaps best known for his books with religious themes and his regular contributions to Peace News. He also drew posters.
By 1961 Wragg was contributing political cartoons to the Sunday Pictorial. Arthur Wragg died in London on August 17, 1976. The Times commented that “his friends in all sectors of society feel today that their lives are the poorer for the loss of his tolerance, wisdom and kindly humour.” His work has strong ties to many of the visual storytellers of his age, especially Lynd Ward.
Thanks to Mirko Ilic for the Arthur Wragg books.