May 1, 2012

History Of Russia

Selected by Christoph Niemann

Author: Steven Heller

A friend gave me Doré's History of Holy Russia when I was twenty-five. I wish I had gotten it a lot earlier. First of all, it is incredibly well drawn (no surprise given its creator, Gustav Doré). Much more amazing, however, is the humor that reveals itself not only through the language or the skillful caricatures. I have to admit that before I had seen that book, I had considered Wilhelm Busch and Saul Steinberg to be the inventors of 80 percent of the visual humor vocabulary that is used today.

It's so hard to come up with something truly original, so it was a relief to see that even Steinberg sometimes had to rely on the visual inventions of a giant before him (for example, the renderings of huge armies by drawing one detailed soldier in the foreground and then repeating the silhouette hundreds of times in the distance).

Doré is known as an outstanding draftsman of realistic imagery, and there are plenty of incredibly ornate drawings in this book. But my favorite parts are when he starts messing with the conventions of how to handle comic panels, way before there are even proper conventions established. For somebody to invent all-black or all-white panels in the mid-1800s and, most importantly, mix them with such beautiful deadpan text is astounding. As far as I know, there is no version of the book in print righ tnow, but everyone who is interested in the art of visual storytelling shouldg et their hands on this book.

Source: I Heart Design