Cartooning In Wood

Photo: Niels Larsen.

Every now and then the activity behind the camera gets caught. Such as the improvised black blanket held up as a background for a tiny statuette. The accidental photo discloses, why this blog at times run silent while writing goes on outside of it or as is the case right now, when preparations are busily on for publication.

She is 23 cm. tall and was carved in wood by Valdemar Andersen a century ago. Her nose is aligned with her forehead, as was the profile of his wife Juliane, although we have no other indication if she was the actual model. This was the profile he gave every woman in his life's work. Juliane was the one he saw before him when portraying woman.

Photo: Niels Larsen.

One of three sketches known for the statuette.
The statuette is privately owned, as are the sketches.
(Photo: LCL)

Cartoonists rarely master the art of painting. Most of the time it is sheer pain beholding their attempts on canvas. Layer upon layer of color, where the brush seems to have run astray, refusing to be reined in.

Sculpture, however, is a totally different matter. Cartoonists are master sculptors and have proven their art in clay, wood or bronze from the time of Honoré Daumier to Zapiro of our day. 

It seems a piece of sheer magic each time. The pen and the chisel should be an abyss apart yet the correlation is so close that it holds a clue to the art of cartooning itself. As always when you ask a cartoonist, there is no explanation of how, but a "Well, ...". Valdemar was notoriously quiet and would not even have attempted to give an answer.

Photo: Niels Larsen.

Sketch for the statuette. (Photo: LCL)
Answers would naturally be as manifold as the cartoonists, if any could be given, but we have a few indicators. One of which is the portrayal of life. Each piece of sculpture is the portrait of someone living, be it an animal or human, just as was the first subject of interest in cartooning. 

The sculpture then tends be no larger than an actual piece of paper. The concentration of the eye, transforming its analysis into a composition on the picture plane is still working in the format in which it has always done.  

Still, catching the life within while proving to have been composing in three implied dimensions all along is cause for admiration. 

Sculpture is the place for the seasoned cartoonist to test his or her muscles and to this we have yet another layer: We find both chiseling and modeling, i.e. the two traditional hands in sculpture. Of the two, modeling clay is the most prevalent, but before us we have a delicate proof of the art of the knife.

Photo: Niels Larsen.

The photos shown are courtesy of Niels Larsen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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