Monday, December 22, 2014

Beautiful Book #49

Through the Animals' Eyes. By Christopher Wormell. Running Press: 2006.

Self-taught wood engraver, Christopher Wormell is a leading commercial artist in Britain. His Wikipedia entry presents him as a working class bloke who, at the age of 27, bought himself wood engraving tools and, inspired by landscape painting, taught himself the craft. The biography that accompanies the back of his books reveals a deeper artistic legacy. His father taught him and his siblings the art of lino-cutting and each Christmas the Wormell family mass produced handmade Christmas cards as a bit of a cottage industry.

His first book for children, An Alphabet of Animals (1990), was done as a lino-cut book and won the Graphics Prize at the Bologna International Children's Book Fair in 1991. Simple yet flawless in design, it reminds me of C.B. Falls' 1923 ABC Book which was featured on this list way back at #8. Since emerging on the scene with round about the biggest bang there is, Wormell has published several children's books, both those he has written and those he has illustrated for others. I could have easily chosen one of his two alphabet books for this list (because you all know my weakness), or, really,  any one of a number of his titles, but keeping things in the holiday spirit, I've chosen Through the Animals' Eyes. For this book, Wormell adapted the biblical story of the nativity into contemporary plain language, A naturalist at heart, his lino-cut illustrations depict the story as filtered through the perspective of animals who would have inhabited the Holy Land at the time of Christ's birth. An appendix describes each animal in more detail, thus making the book part Biblical text, part independent visual narrative and part zoological history textbook.

Images from the book are scarce online, but trust me when I say this book is stunning. I've included the cover below along with one illustration from this book and one from his award-winning alphabet. To learn more about him and see more of his stunning art, both commercial and book art, check out his profile on The Artworks Agency web page. There are a number of beautiful images there to peruse, including the many of the woodcuts he has become known for.

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