Lynd Ward knew he wanted to be an artist when he saw that his last name spelled backwards was “draw.” You can learn more about Ward’s art and life when Art After Hours, an eclectic lecture series at Rutgers University, celebrates the graphic-novel pioneer with a reception for the exhibition “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods.” The event takes place next Wednesday, December 5, from 5 to 9 p.m., at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The evening includes a screening of the new film O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward. (Watch the trailer here, or scroll down to the end of this post.)
The tour of “Lynd Ward Draws Stories” will be led by Marilyn Symmes, the director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and its curator of prints and drawings, with Beth McKeown, the assistant curator of prints and drawings. The exhibition pays tribute to one of America’s great illustrators of the 20th century, who illustrated more than 100 books, most of them for children and young adults. Featured in the exhibition are original and printed illustrations selected from the Zimmerli’s extensive permanent collection. Among the highlights are 21 of Ward’s vivid original illustrations for A Mexican Story (1953), as well as two of his masterful drawings for The Biggest Bear (1952), which brought Ward the prestigious Caldecott Medal. In addition, Ward was a prolific draftsman and printmaker, particularly in wood engraving, and he pioneered the American graphic novel without text, which he called a “novel in woodcuts” for adults. His earliest books, Gods’ Man (1929) and Mad Man’s Drum (1930), exemplify this genre and also are on display in the exhibition. The 2012 documentary by the independent filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton of 217 Films is the first about Ward’s life and career, and it provides numerous insights into the artist’s printmaking mastery.