art of woodcuts dates back to the ancient civilizations of China
and Egypt. It didn't become popular in the West until the 14th
century where is was used as a means of designing and decorating
textiles throughout Europe. Even from the earliest of times,
the raw power and beauty of this technique easily lent itself to
political or religious imagery. The middle of the 19th century
saw a new form of publication born - the illustrated newspaper - and
the woodcut found another fitting way to use its inherent power by
gracing the pages of many different papers.
involves having the artist draw his image in reverse on the face of
a wood block. Then the block would be turned over to engravers
who would then cut out the design. This allowed for the
drastic and striking contrast between light and dark that is at the
heart of the eloquence and power of this type of art. It is
only natural that such a poignant form of expression would find its
way onto the pages of radical newspapers where its arresting style
could be used to its fullest extent.
One of the most talented woodcut artists to grace the pages of the
Northwest's radical press was Richard V. Correll (1904-1990). He was born
in Missouri, but for most of his life he livedon
the West Coast, except for a period in the 1940s when he lived in New York City
and was employed as a book illustrator and ad designer. In 1933, his
woodcuts began to appear in the weekly
Voice of Action , published by the Seattle branch of the Communist
Party. He was not the only woodcut artist to contribute to the newspaper. The
block above was cut by different hands. Indeed the Voice of Action
woodcuts became so popular that Correll and perhaps other artists began teaching
classes in the art form, advertising them in the weekly newspaper. Correll's
blocks are distinguished from those of his fellow artists by the bold use of
white space and sharp lines. They were also highly detailed as in his "This is
the model city" block that depicted a cabal of top-hatted "employers"
redesigning Seattle under martial law to break unions and maintain the "open
shop." He used his talent to illustrate complex scenes and comment on
issues and events covered by the radical newspaper.
Below are further examples of Correll's art followed by woodcuts
by other artists. All appeared in the Voice of Action 1933-1936.
Click in the thumbnails for a larger image.
Richard Correll woodcuts: