Savage Lines – Illustrating history in unique and powerful ways.

Savage lines – illustrating history in unique and powerful ways.

Joe Sacco, Safe Area GorazdeArtists can make a difference and highlight savage events when their work illustrates the past.

Some historical events are so emotive that artists and writers are compelled to create books that need illustration to show fully the story of an event. The combination of words, pictures and great design can depicted history in such powerful and emotive ways that the events being illustrated will have far greater impact than if just told in words.

One example is Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde. This graphic novel is a powerful testimony and shocking account of the Bosnian War when Joe Sacco travelled four times to Gorazde in Bosnia. His storytelling and illustrations present a harrowing account of the vicious siege and ‘ethnic cleansing’ that took place.

Maus by Art Spiegelman was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize (1992). Illustrating the experiences of Polish Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis in World War II, Maus began to establish comics and graphic novels as a serious art form.

Waltz with Bashir – a Lebanon War Story, written by Ari Folman, a Tel Aviv-based filmmaker, and illustrated by David Polonsky is a testimony to war crimes and the chronic savagery and sadness of war in the Middle East.

The Hiroshima Story, Toshi Maruki

The Hiroshima Story by Japanese artist and writer Toshi Maruki (The Hiroshima Panels) is another book that uses powerful illustration to show the tragic bombing of Hiroshima in a shocking and moving way. To sit with this book and see the story of a family on that fateful day gives moving insight into that awful event.

Raymond Briggs, Ethel & ErnestArtists such as Raymond Briggs have used their illustrations to recreate a period in history. His book Ethel and Earnest tells the story of his parents and childhood during the second world war in England. This completely illustrated novel not only allows Raymond Briggs to tell his story but also illustrate in detail the times they lived through.

Erica’s Story tells of a chance encounter when the author Ruth Vander Zee met a woman who did not know her name, did not know her birth date but knew that she had been born sometime in 1944. All she knew was that sometime when just few months old she was saved from the Holocaust. In this book the author and her illustrator Roberto Innocenti with publishers Tom Maschler of Jonathan Cape have designed a book that conveys in a unique and powerful way a moment in history.

Making us aware – making us rethink

Arthur Wragg, Jesus WeptSome artists are compelled to produce work with the aim of making us aware and making us rethink our attitude to war. Arthur Wragg produced remarkable anti-war illustrated books in the lead up to 1939. He criticised the armament manufacturers, the warmongering politicians and the poverty and imbalance of wealth that leads to war.

In all these books the combination of words and images create a powerful and lasting experience in the mind of the reader.

Erica's Story. Ruth Vander Zee, Roberto Innocenti

In Erika’s Story, Roberto Innocenti’s illustrations create a book of great intensity.

Raymond Briggs, Ethel & Ernest

In his book ‘Ethel & Ernest’ Raymond Brigg’s parents stand outside their bombed house in South London.

Safe Area Gorazde, Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco’s graphic novel with its shocking images ensures that the savage events of the Boznian war in the 1990s are not forgotten.

Waltz with Bashir, a Lebanon War Story

Waltz with Bashir – a Lebanon War Story. A grphic novel telling the story of the Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians by Christian militia in Beirut in 1982.











Christopher Sharville © 2016. If you spot any inaccuracies please get in touch. We are always willing to learn.